Monday, August 26, 2019

A Quick Turnaround- Learning From Your Mistakes

An important part of my watercolor journey, and one I sometimes forget, is taking time to access a piece and learn from past mistakes.   When you force yourself to hurry, you rely on past knowledge and experience, rather than allowing intuition and taste to guide your work.

I'd mentioned earlier that when able, I use my evenings for watercolor illustrations and my days for comic work.  Working with limited time means I'm liable to take shortcuts, make mistakes, and not give my work the time it really needs.  Sometimes overworking a piece isn't the solution, but taking time to think and make educated decisions, knowing when to hold back and let the paint speak for itself.

HB Pencil
Mix of watercolors- Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Mijello, Holbein, Sennlier
Mix of watercolor pencils- Derwent Inktense, Supracolor II

In my post last Monday, I mentioned briefly that I was disappointed in the piece below.  I felt like it was overworked, like it had lost its freshness.  Just because I was disappointed in how it came out doesn't mean it's lost it's value, but I was determined to learn from my mistakes and handle it's sister piece differently.

The concept for both these pieces started with really tiny pen doodles.  I didn't even bother to scan them- I just took a bad phone picture and sent it to myself via email.

As with Lost in the Bromeliads, I worked on the sketch for this in December, using my Surface Pro 3.  One of the major things I wanted to work on was portraying a character actively in an environment.

For the Elephant Ears piece, I really wanted to keep things light and fresh.  Of the two, it was my favorite sketch and preferred concept- I really wanted to convey a sense of scale, a particular environment.  I wanted the viewer to put themselves in Kara's shoes- what is it like to explore a yard? a flower bed?

So for this piece, my goal was to keep the layers lighter- don't try to add as much contrast (because I went way too dark with the bromeliads), and let some of the underwash shine through. 

Earlier this week, I removed this piece from the stretcher boards and scanned it in, trying to maintain the colors achieved in the original (near neon yellows, bright blue undertones).  Color correcting originals is always a challenge, and there's usually a little something lost in the process, but I've gotten pretty decent at it over the years.  Below are a few Twitter threads on tips and tricks I use to correct images.

Digital Corrections for Watercolor: 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Making Comics and Intermediate Comic Classes Fall 2019

I'm so excited to offer TWO comic classes in Nashville this Fall!  Both are six week classes designed to help comic artists learn new skills and make a finished, printed, and assembled minicomic or zine to exchange at the end of the six week class.  

Making Comics is an introductory level comics-craft class great for anyone 13 and up that teaches the basics of planning and creating a comic.  This class is great for those interested in making their first comic, or interested in continuing their comics journey in a class setting.

Intermediate Comics builds on concepts and skills taught in Making Comics and covers additional topics such as adding color or tone to your comic pages, scanning and digitally correcting your pages, laying out your comic, and printing your comics.  In Intermediate Comics, I'll provide students with class tech access including a limited number of tablet computers, access to a large format printer, and scanner access.

Sign up for Making Comics
Sign up for Intermediate Comics

While students are requested to bring their own sketchbooks and invited to bring materials they'd like to experiment with, Nashville Community Education and myself provide all needed materials, and I work with students on a one on one basis in class and online to help them accomplish their comic goals.

Classes are open to anyone 16 and up to take on their own, or for 13 year olds to take with a parent.  This could be a great class to take with a friend, a family member, or your partner!

Both classes have open enrollment right now, and Nashville Community Ed offers scholarships!

Making Comics
Students will learn how to plot, plan, and prep an eight page mini comic, on the topic of their choice. Learn how to make daily journal comics, create recipe comics, or tell a short story in this immersive class. No drawing skills necessary - artists of all skill levels are welcome. Materials are provided. A final class on March 7 will meet at Wake Up Comics inside Groove Record Store for a comics and zine exchange! 
Note: Open to ages 16+ (no parent necessary) or ages 13+ if a parent registers as well! 
Check out the syllabus for this class here
Sign up for Making Comics

Brand New!
Intermediate Comics
Interested in taking your comic-making experience to the next level?  Intermediate Comics expands on concepts taught in Making Comics, and provides materials that more experienced students will enjoy. Students will develop or hone their own comic art style, experiment with digital art processes, alcohol markers, and watercolor, learn how to letter and layout their comics, and have access to a large format printer and scanner during this class. Class ends with a joint zine/minicomic exchange shared with the Making Comics class.
Intermediate Comics is for artists who have already taken Making Comics, or comic artists looking to expand their experience.

Check out the syllabus for this class here!
Sign up for Intermediate Comics

Learn more about my Nashville Community Ed classes!

The Zine Exchange

The above video was shot at our Zine Exchange, held at The Groove in East Nashville, after class officially ended.  NCE Fall 2019's Zine Exchange is still in negotiation, but I will announce a location soon!  The zine exchange is an opportunity for students to exchange their finished zines and minicomics and celebrate six weeks of hard work with friends and family!  Open to the public, food and non-alcoholic drinks are provided!

Zines and Minis Made by Making Comics Students

For Making Comics, layout and printing are handled by me, zines and minis are assembled by students in class.  For Intermediate Comics, I teach students how to layout their own zines, and we spend time in class printing and assembling copies.  Any zines/minicomics that are not finished in class are finished by me, so all students with a complete zine or minicomic will have something for the exchange.  Students don't need to worry about printing or printing costs-this is covered by the class fee.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Kara in the Bromeliads

Saturday, I finished this watercolor illustration of Kara, lost among the bromeliads.  It'd been sitting on my drying rack, first as bluelines, then as pencils, for at least a couple of months, along with the rest of the huge stack of half-finished art that's been piling up.  

During the day, I've been working on Naomi's bonus chapter for 7" Kara Volume 2 and using my evenings to wind down and paint.  At first, it was used specifically for Volume 2 materials- the cover, title page, page border illustrations, cast of characters page.  I decided to sneak this one and her sister piece (Kara in elephant ears) into the mix.  I have no book-specific use for them yet, but I wanted to paint something a little different in the evening.

HB Pencil
Mix of watercolors- Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Mijello, Holbein, Sennlier
Mix of watercolor pencils- Derwent Inktense, Supracolor II

The sketch was a doodle to keep my hands busy while I was in Luling during Christmas.  Internet is poor there, and the lighting is bad as well, so it's a great opportunity to do digital work.  A lot of my Kara illustrations fall into the same trends- close up, lost sense of scale, limited background, upbeat.  I wanted to do a few illustrations that changed that and gave me more material to play with when promoting 7" Kara. 

watercolor illustration, watercolor art, kidlit art

This isn't my favorite piece by far.  It's overworked- the bromeliads are way too dark, I lost a lot of the freshness it originally had.  The bromeliads are also too rendered and tight- they feel stiff and formal.  This piece isn't fun, it isn't lively, and while it does convey a feeling of being lost, the stakes are lost.  I struggled with the paper as well- I used Blick Premier cottonrag paper, removed from the block to run through my printer, and for some reason, it handled really poorly this time.

But none of that actually matters-not really.  In three months, these flaws won't really stand out to me, and while it will probably never be my favorite piece, it's passable and serves a purpose.  Sometimes you need art you can share while you're in the middle of a new comic chapter.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

God Save the Zine!

10 years of Zines and Minicomics

What are Zines?

  • Small, self published, often self printed, generally self assembled booklets.
  • Zines (zeens, not z-eye-ns, short for magazine) can be just text, text with a few illustrations, illustrations with a little text, just illustrations, comics, or a combination of all the above. 
  • Zines can be personal, political, recipes, how-to's, essays, short fiction, poetry, comics, or all of the above.
  • Zines can be the work of a single person, the contributions of a collection

Recently the term 'zine' has been co-opted to mean fandom based anthologies with multiple artists, Kickstarted and printed in a perfect bound format.  The term 'doujin' is really more fitting for that sort of project, as zines are really more of a small scale, DIY project that anyone can tackle, and is intended to be a product of the masses, for the masses.

Who are they for?

Anyone.  There are all sorts of zines, on all sorts of topics- if you search hard enough, you will find a zine that appeals to you.  And if you can't find one- you can MAKE one.  Zines can be for stay at home dads looking for easy recipes on a budget.  Zines can be for rugged outsdoorswomen who want to share their knowledge of field medicine and foraging.  Zines can share political beliefs, or the history of a particular cause.  Zines can be a how to guide for kids looking to start making their own zines, or a manifesto on the importance of voting for 20 somethings who can't get off from work on Election Day.

Who makes zines?

Anyone can make a zine- that's the beauty!  If you've got recipes you want to share, a trip you'd like to memorialize, a political viewpoint you want to disseminate, knowledge that should be preserved, short stories that need a home, mini comics that you'd like to see in print- you've got content for a zine!

What's in a zine?

While there are a variety of ways to manufacture your own zines, my favorite method is the simplest- 8"x11" sheets of paper, folded in half to make 5.5"x8" booklets.


Japanese mulberry paper cover, with block printed text, stab binding

I like to use a heavier stock for my covers- usually cardstock, but you can use almost anything- modpodged cutouts and ephemera, handmade paper, fancy scrapbooking paper, a carefully designed and printed cover- it's up to you!

You can even screenprint, risograph, or block print your covers!


One sheet of paper will generate four pages of zine.  If you wanted to print and bind an eight page comic with a wraparound cover, that's three sheets of paper.


Again, this could be almost anything.  Can't draw, but want to include art?  How about collage?  Prefer to work digitally?  Not a problem at all.  The focus on zines isn't the most polished content- it's getting the content out there, in a way that's sustainable and affordable for the creator.

This can be in black and white, color, or a combination of the two, but keep in mind that color greatly increases the price to print.

Personalization and Decoration:

Ideas to get you started:
  • Travelogue zine/minicomic that includes ticket stubs, photos from places you've visited, sketches, and journal entries.
  • Inktober illustrations collected into a themed zine
  • Mermay, Magical Girl March, March of the Robots, World Watercolor Month themed zines
  • A how to zine for a craft or hobby you enjoy (sewing, fencing, foraging)
  • A collection of family recipes to pass on to the next generation
  • Information about self care such as useful stretches for artists

How do you make zines?


You're going to want to design around the format of your page.  For our example, we're still talking about the 8"x5.5" booklet.

If you're working digitally, you can either design individual pages (8" tall by 5.5" wide) or you can design as spreads (8" tall by 11" wide).  If you're working traditionally, it can be really helpful to work on pages that are the same size as your finished book, or that work along the same ratio.


If you work digitally, your zine is already digitized!  If you work traditionally, you have a few options:

Home scanner- scanning your pages at home

Don't have a scanner?
Bring to the library and request that they scan it for you

Bring to a copy shop, pay them to scan your pages

Take photos of your pages/graphics using a smart phone- aim for clear lighting with no cast shadows- natural light outside works well!


You CAN collate zines by hand, but I prefer to use Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher to help with collating and printing.  I have a tutorial on laying out zines and minis using Affinity Publisher here!


Many artists print their zines at copy machines or copy shops such as Staples or Kinkos.  I hate waiting around Staples for three hours, so I purchased an inexpensive duplexing toner based printer to print minicomics at home.

Helpful Materials:
Cardstock (white)
Cardstock (Colored)
Copier Paper
Kraft Paper 




Saddle Stitch

Assembling minis using a longarm stapler in my Making Comics class 

Longarm Stapler
Saddle Stitch Stapler

What to do with zines?

Selling Minicomics and Zines at A2CAF 2019

Sell them
Indie comic cons
Library conventions
Anime cons
On Consignment
Online- physical copies
Online- PDF copies
Sell on consignment through record stores, local bookstores, gift shops, boutiques

If you have questions about selling zines and mini comics, check out How to be a Con Artist!

Zine exchange for Making Comics, Spring 2019

Give them Away
Give them to friends
Give them to family
Hand them out to strangers
Put them in Little Libraries
Host a zine exchange- in person or by mail

Leave them places
Dentist Offices'
Hair Salons
Dr's Offices
Bowling Alleys

Recommended Materials to Get Started:

Copy Paper
Colored Cardstock
Bone Folder
Long Arm Stapler

Useful Resources:
Laying Out Your Minicomics and Zines
Sea Lemon- Bookbinding
How to Make Your own Minicomics
Zines are Power-Twitter Thread
Cool Minicomic Format
Analog Self Publishing

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fun in Breaking Format

Don't adjust your picture- the image you see is correct (unless it's broken up into weird pieces, then no, it's not).  This strange format was inspired by an equally odd sample of Grumbacher watercolor paper I received in an Artsnacks.

The paper itself is pretty mediocre- soapy the same way Winsor and Newton's first watercolor paper was, probably too much surface sizing.  I used Da Vinci watercolors on it- these are some of my favorite professional watercolors- and even they look a bit amateur on the paper, as they never actually soaked in.  But this isn't about the paper, it's about the format, and how much I enjoyed playing with an unusual aspect ratio.

Shaking things up and changing format and ratio can be inspiring!  By working on an inexpensive sample, it gave me a chance to doodle and play- important hobbies for an artist.

What do YOU do to add inspiration and innovation to your artistic routine?

For the curious, there's even a tutorial for this piece on my channel, where I walk you through it step by step.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Strathmore Illustration Board and Watercolor

Watercolor on Strathmore Illustration Board

Generally, when I do watercolor illustration, I go for watercolor paper.  I use both cellulose and cottonrag, and my tastes are pretty cheap- I like Canson Montval for most Kara pages, but will burn through cotton rag for unbox and swatches and field tests.  I also like mixed media paper, particularly if I'm using alcohol markers with my watercolors, and I really enjoy using it for inking.  Up until this test, I'd never afforded myself the opportunity to try illustration board.

Illustration board is a heavyweight art board and is often comprised of two elements, usually a drawing, mixed media, or watercolor paper attached to a thicker board, sometimes chipboard.  Its intended to be structurally sound enough to not require stretching or futher support.  Strathmore Illustration board comes in several different types, all within their 500 series range- Lightweight Vellum, Heavyweight Vellum, Heavyweight plate, and Heavy Weight Vellum (for wet media).  All of their illustration boards use cotton fiber mounted to archival boards in varying thicknesses.

While I generally love Strathmore papers (particularly their bristol boards and their toned papers, but I also really enjoy their mixed media Visual Journals and mixed media papers), I avoid using it for layered, detailed watercolor art.

This piece originally started as a much larger sheet of Strathmore Illustration board, which the kind folks at Jerry's Artarama here in Nashville cut down for me.  I went for 12"x9" as the main cut, as that and 8"x10" are the sizes I use most frequently.  I honestly can't remember which type of illustration board I went for- I assume I weight for heavyweight vellum for dry media, as the texture on this paper isn't really suitable for watercolor.

Originally, I was going to treat this as mixed media- Copic markers and watercolor, but I wanted to do something with soft blends for the clover.  I may do another piece using alcohol markers to see how well they handle on this paper.

If you like soft blends and transitions, Strathmore Dry Media illustration boards are not for you.  As you can see from the 'gradient' in the sky- I had difficulty getting smooth transitions between shades and colors.  I didn't really struggle much with this paper, beyond the inability to blend out as desired.  It accepted the watercolor decently well, I had no issues with buckling, and the paper itself did not pill.  Colors went down bright and saturated and it was easy to ink on.

Looking for something that accepts watercolor?  Awhile back, I reviewed Canson's Montval Artboard!  Possible follo

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Saturday in Nashville

This Saturday morning, I'm going to be repping comics down at the Cohn School as part of Nashville Community Education's Open House!  This event is free to the public, and is a perfect way to meet some of NCE's instructors and get a feel for their classes.  Some instructors will also have things for sale- I'm going to have comics, minis, and my brand new charms!

I'm going to have a standalone announcement soon, but this Fall, I'm offering two classes with NCE:

Making Comics
Intermediate Comics

Making Comics is a six week long introduction to planning and creating your own comic.  Intermediate Comics builds on that, and covers topics we weren't able to cover in Making Comics- figure drawing for comics, options for adding color, scanning and digitizing your work, lettering, and even layout!

Come learn about both these classes, and pick up a class by class breakdown, at the Open House!

After the Open House, I'll be at Plaza Artist Materials, teaching a three hour comic bootcamp!  We're going to learn about planning a comic, the basic process, and how to turn one sheet of paper into an eight page minicomic! 

We're going to provide the materials, but you're welcome to bring your own favorite comic making supplies!