Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Exibiting at a Con

Exhibit floor at WonderConAfter exhibiting at a few cons, I've got a bit of a routine that I thought would be nice to share with any other aspiring artists out there.

I'm swamped with work to do, so I'm going to type this fast, my apologies for typos, etc. (actually, if you could point out typos by leaving comments I'd be really grateful, thanks.)

Con checklist (things to bring)

  • Comics: I pack my comics in a box and then drop that box into carry-on suitcase with wheels. The first time I lugged all my stock to the show (5 comics x 100 issues each) and ended up lugging most of them back home after the show was over. This last time (4th time to a con) I packed light. I had 9 comics and didn't bring more than 30 copies of each, in some cases, 20 copies (which I sold out by the end of the second day).
  • Prints: prints seem to be a pretty good business model, much better than my print on demand comics (that rarely cover the cost of the very table I'm selling them from).
  • Business Cards: if someone doesn't buy your stuff, at least get a business card in their hand. Don't have cards? try VistaPrint.com they're cheep, fast and high quality... you just have to click carefully for the last step of the order where they ask you "hey, do you want us to throw in some extra junk?"
  • Extras: every con has it's own mood and tone. Wondercon is all about comics and prints while APE is all about Prints and Odd/Original things like buttons, postcards, stamps, or hats (you know, "alternative press").
  • Food & Drink: if you don't want to get ripped off by convention prices, pack a lunch and something to drink. Remember napkins or something too.
  • Clothing: Wondercon cranks the A/C waaay up and APE was a sauna. So keep that in mind. Make sure you can add or remove a sweater or something. (at Wondercon, I even brought chap stick and was thankful I did.)
  • Shoes: You may be standing on cement all day... wear comfy shoes.
  • Stands: books stands, business card stands, etc.
  • box tape and scissors: You never know. I always bring this and I always find a use for it. Making signs, keeping things in place, etc.
  • Paper or Index cards: for making little signs with
  • Sharpie: for making signs and signing comics with
  • Camera: get a picture of your fans and your booth! (and make sure your batteries are charged!... I made that mistake this time...)
  • Pack Light: I know I just listed off a bunch of stuff, but remember, you have to carry all that crap from the car to the booth/table.

Con checklist (things to do)

  • Pack the day before: you're going to be rushing around the next day, so just do yourself a favor and put all that stuff to bed before you go to sleep.
  • Parking: the best way to loose any profit you might make is by getting price gouged on convention parking. You may be used to paying $15 for hanging around a Con for 2 hours... but when you are there from open to close, the price goes up FAST! Try to be smart. If you can get a friend to drop you off at the front door with all your stuff and then park farther away (or maybe your wife doesn't want to go to the show at all, which is perfect). DON'T expect to leave your car unattended out front while you drop off your stuff, odds are the security guards won't let you. I've gotten in the habit of getting dropped off the first day and then taking the train/bus to the event on the following days. Then I arrange for someone to pick me and my stuff up on the last day.
  • Price Exhibitor Badges: just take a look at the price of a 3 day pass to the show, vs the price of a full blown Exhibitor pass. If you're going to have a friend help work the booth, you probably want the cheaper of the two. The only real difference is getting into the show an hour early or not.
  • Get a better business model than me.: seriously, I lose money when I sell comics at a convention, lots of money. My print on demand comics are like $4 each, so I have to sell them for $5. While the big guys pay $0.66 to print a copy and sell them for $3 (or sometimes $5!). Give it some thought. I'm going to try some large prints at the next show (as in, the kind of print you frame and hang on the wall.) They cost less to make and will probably be a better business model then the print on demand comics. (in short, don't quick your day job until you figure out how to walk away from a convention with thousands of dollars in your pocket... oh, and when you figure that out, tell me how you did it :)
  • Be honest with your friends: You friends will come to see you at the Con and will want to chat. That's cool, just make sure they know not to block your table. Have them stand a little to the side (or invite them behind the table) so people can still get to your table and possibly buy your stuff.
  • Deflect Leaches: You'll get that guy who comes up and stands in front of your table, blocking it off from everyone else, and then just stand there and reads every page of every one of your comics. Then says "You're stuff is great!" and walks away. If you'd like him to stand a little to the side and read, just tell him. If you want him to move on, just tell him the price of the comic he's holding and put your hand out like you expect money right now. He'll most likely panic and run off, or panic and pay you.
  • Make Friends: even if you're not good at talking to people, introduce yourself to the exhibitors around you. You'll probably see them again at other conventions and you'll probably be asking them to watch your stuff when you run to the rest room.
  • Start a Tradition: This may sound silly, but you'll appreciate it years later. For example, I take the business cards of people around me and stick them in my badge holder... after the show, I throw all my badges in the same drawer, not in the trash. Some times it's cool to got through them, and with the business cards in the badge holder, you'll remember all the funny stories when you show them to others. (I still have a badge from E3 when I was working at Namco that I had the guys from penny-arcade.com sign... good times.)

Best of luck to you at the show!

Monday, February 11, 2008

On the go Sketching

I don't really like lugging around a bag just to have my sketchbook and pencil box with me. Especially since I find that if I do bring it along, I don't always get a chance to sketch and if I don't bring it along I often end up sitting somewhere bored and wish I had my sketchbook. Plus the packing and unpacking of stuff makes it pretty inconvenient on a daily bases.

Lately, I've been keeping a stack of maybe 10 index-cards in my jacket pocket at all times. I clipped them together with a couple of binder clips so they don't get messed up in my pocket (keeps edges from getting messed up and also keeps them from rubbing against each other and smearing the sketches). However it turns out having them clipped together also makes it really easy to draw on the top card in the stack while standing up. So I can be standing in line somewhere and just pull the cards out of my pocket, and start sketching. Then jam them back in my pocket when I've got to get moving again.

As a result, I always have them with me and I've been doodling more, which is always good.

The second half of that equation are the pens and pencils I bring with me. I recently discovered "snack bags" in the grocery store.
For years, they only had "sandwich bags", but now you can find "snack bags," which are half the size. They're the perfect size for stashing a few pens and putting them in your pocket.

The last ingredients are the caps for the pencils. I originally started capping my pencils because I got tired of them putting holes in my pockets or stabbing me in the hand when I reached into my pocket. I find pen caps are too big, but my fiance's eyeliner caps are nearly perfect. I just slipped in a small piece of paper to make sure they're nice and snug.

Hope these tricks help you sketch on the go!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Even Loose Looks Better Clean

I've been making a comic journal and a vacation comic journal (as you can tell by the links at the top of the page). In both cases I knew I had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. I needed a style that would get the point of the content across to the viewer but also something that was moderately fast to crank out. So I went with a loosely drawn Sunday comic strip style. It worked great. The looseness of the lines kept me moving and discouraged me from getting bogged down and spending 3 hours adding excessive detail to an otherwise lighthearted story.

However, one day I went back and cleaned up one of the pages and realized that it looked better. Not night and day, but definitely better. Here's an example:

I thought loose drawing *had* to look sloppy. I thought having lines meet in overlapping intersections was what made it classified as "loose drawing." However, now I realize you can still have a loose drawing with clean lines and corners. And I think it looks better. So, yes, I went back and cleaned up every page.

It's really surprising how fast a few clicks of the eraser tool can really cleanup a sketch. I'll definitely be setting aside more time to cleanup my work more often.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Photoshop: Coloring with Colorfill Layers

I use this technique a lot. For example, the self-portrait in the first post on this blog:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Virtual Tracing Paper

"Remember, there are no rules, just tools." ~Glen Vilppu

If you're anything like me, you don't have a lot of time to begin with, so the little time you have to sketch or make art is very valuable. At the same time making art is all about spending as much time as you need to "finish" the piece. A buzz word in game development right now is "iteration time." The more times you iterate on something, the better it can be in the end. If it takes 10 to 20 iterations before something is just the way you like it, wouldn't you want to iterate as fast and clean as possible? Wouldn't you want to safely experiment for a few iterations without ruining all the work you've do so far (like destroying your original)?

Enter this technique, which I'm calling "Virtual Tracing Paper." Traditionally, one of the first things you learn is to sketch very very VERY lightly with a lighter pencil. Then you make iterations by very slowly moving to a darker pencil and finally to ink. I'm bad at this, I'm too heavy handed (and I do still practice this BTW, so I am getting better). That leads us to the next traditional technique of tracing paper and/or light-boxes. If you make all your iterations on a new sheet of paper, then a world of possibilities open up for the direction you can take the piece you're working on.

Virtual Tracing Paper is the idea of leveraging the computer as if it were a light-box. It requires a scanner and a printer. Basically scan in the image you're working on, lighten it up, and print it back out. Continue to work on the printout.


  • you can re-size/rotate things.
    for example: take a small doodle and grow it to be the size of the page for the next iteration, or grow one detail to the size of the page so you can work on all the little hard to reach areas. If you have a sketch that's to tall or two wide, you can squash or stretch it. If you draw at an angle, you can tilt it to be more upright.

  • you can move things.
    think "proportions." it's always easy to look at a drawing and say "crap, that's too long," or too short or too far apart, etc. But it's a pain in the but to do something about it. In many cases it's faster to just start over than to try to "save" the sketch. However if you scan it in and print it out you can move or re-size parts of the sketch to achieve the proportions you wanted. It will look bad because parts won't line up, but as soon as you lighten the sketch and print it back out, you can use everything as guides to draw new, better lines.

  • flip it!
    it's a common trick to hold a piece of paper up to the light and look at it through the back side. You see everything in reverse so it helps your brain spot problem areas. Now you can just mirror the sketch and print it out and keep working.

  • experiments and shading.
    print out 5 copies of your line-work, shade each one differently. Suddenly you can experiment without worrying about messing up the original.

The Next Level

If you want to bring the technique to a 2.0, get a tablet. If you have a tablet you can skip the printing out part and just alpha out your current layer, create a new layer, and go to town on it. Iterations become extremely easy.

A word of caution.

This can be a fun and fast way to work and experiment, however it can also be one hell of a crutch. As soon as you can move, rotate, re-size, and stretch your sketch, you start making a habit of not getting your proportions right the first time. So don't stop drawing on paper and don't stop trying to make traditional pieces the traditional way. Remember, you'll learn more if you start a piece over from scratch to fix and proportions than if you just use the computer to fix the proportions. If you want to get better, you've got to bite the bullet and do the practice work involved with getting better. In the end, use your best judgment for what your personal goals are.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tell A Friend About Creative Commons

(Image From: lukeroberts on deviantart)

Well, I've finally arrived. I had my first piece of art ripped off yesterday. It was an accident really, the person meant well, but none the less, they took an image I spent hours making and pasted it right into their own work.

I always knew these things happen to artists, but it's pretty unsettling when it happens to you. Thankfully, it was exactly what I thought, just someone who meant well, but didn't realize they were crossing a line when they used it without asking permission first.

This is the reply I sent to him. Please, educate your friends and family about Creative Commons so we can all be creative together without stepping on each other's toes.

Hey man, thanks for taking it down. but I just want to make sure you know I'm not angry or mad at you. I had a feeling it was an accident, but it was a very unsettling feeling to see how easily things can get ripped off (even with the best of intentions).

believe it or not, I was more worried about you than my image. I'm not too broken-up about it, but I was worried you might accidentally tick someone off someday if I didn't speak up. (as in, tick off someone with lawyers or something)

the good news is, it's really easy to tell when artists do and don't want others to edit their work.

Just look for: "Creative Commons" here's a link to wikipedia:

Flickr has Creative Common options and I noticed that DeviantArt is doing it now too. So just look for that and you should be all set to have fun with an image.

Here's an example: http://lukeroberts.deviantart.com/art/Creative-Block-43033454

notice the (CC) instead of (C)?

Pass on the word. The more people who know about these things, the better.

Best of Luck to You,

100 Photoshop Tutorials

I don't want this blog to turn into nothing but off-site links, but this was too good to pass up. It's not easy to find good photoshop tutorials. Searches usually turn up lots of 1st-day-beginner stuff and photo touch-ups), but the lines and color blog just posted a link to this:

100 Photoshop Tutorials for creating beautiful art.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Using Real Sanguine

I saw this post on the DrawingBoard.org

Renaissance Style Drawing (Sanguine) -- A Tutorial (images above are from here)

"If you have read books on Renaissance-era drawing, you may have noticed the media listed as sanguine. Sanguine is a natural mineral, hematite, or basically a rusty rock. They didn't have Conté crayons or pastel pencils in the 1500s, so this is what they used."

Edit: the lines and colors blog tracked the author back to KM Scott Moore.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Chinese Brush: Work Area

I finally got all the stuff needed to paint at home (even if a lot of it is whatever I had on hand), so I thought I'd give you a quick look at what's involved.

note: I crowded everything in so I could fit it all in the pictures, but you probably want to spread out a little and leave some blank space around your paper so you're not knocking your brush into other things while you're trying to paint.

also note: I'm left handed, so odds are, your setup will have all the brushes and ink on the other side of the paper.

Here's a little more detail:

  • Bamboo Brush Wrap:happened to be there so I labeled it... really, it's just taking up table space.
  • Roll of Paper: always good. Note, to get off some nice sections to paint on, fold the paper, make a crease, then run a wet brush down the fold, and then rip it. Try to keep the wet area as skinny as possible (she how jagged my paper is on the right side? I used too much water.)
  • Clean Water: try to keep one of your rinse containers clean. This is the water I was using to tear the paper. I'm using a pasta jar.
  • Dirty Water: as in, rinse water. I'm using a coffee can, but I'm not sure if it will rust or not, so I'll probably switch to another jar.
  • Light & Dark Gray: I'm using single serving yogurt containers.
  • Ink: it's empty in the picture, but that's where it would be.
  • Brush Rest: there are fancy brush rests, but I'm just using the lid to the coffee can. Basically, the tips are wet and it's nice to keep them off the table a little.
  • Shape Tip: I just wanted to point out that there is a spot on the lid where I've been shaping the tip when it's loaded with ink. You could also use another container or something, but basically, you want an alternative to the dabbing cloth. The cloth will suck ink out of the brush and make it dry as you're shaping the tip, the plastic lid won't.
  • Dab Cloth: I found a fat stack of washcloths on sale for $2, so I grabbed them.
  • Weights: these serve two purposes: keep the rolled up paper flat and keep the paper still so it doesn't move while you're in the middle of making a stroke. I grabbed whatever was at arm's length, which happened to be tea candles and some heavier tea candle holders (in class we literally just use some flat rocks.)
  • Felt: the table is covered with some felt cloth. It's cheap (paid $1 or $2 a yard) and works well.
  • Drying: just a reminder, things need somewhere to dry. I let them dry there on the felt for a while before stacking them up or whatever.
  • Not Pictured:
    • an eye dropper: if you want to put any ink back in the bottle and your containers aren't as easy to deal with as my yogurt containers.
    • a masterpiece: look at that terrible bamboo! yuck! :) Yours will be better.