Busy Being Awesome

These past two weeks have been really busy, I’ve been wrapped up in a lot of various projects.  It’s been fun, but man, it’s been hectic.

In addition to writing and drawing the last 50 pages of the next Uptown Girl book (which I’ve decided to title ‘Imitation of Life’ after all) I’ve been working on the digital side of it too.  I sent some pages to Ben Mudek and asked him to work some Photoshop magic on them.  I also need to get going on the cover and send that to him so he can put that together as well.  You guys, I really don’t know what I would do without Ben.  I’m also lettering the stories I haven’t lettered yet.  It’s about halfway done and it’s going quickly.  I should be caught up on the lettering by the end of November.  While doing this, I came across this comic I drew for the book a while:

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I looked at it and I remembered that I hated the final panel.  It has a bad layout and the crosshatching and the couch look lazy.  So I redrew the comic.  Here it is:

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Opening up the final panel really helps the scene, especially with so much going on.  We are all going to pretend that the television and the video game console are plugged in somehow.  I have no ideas who Rocketman’s friends are in this comic.

I’ve also been working on a commissioned piece.  I don’t do a lot of licensed characters but they really are fun.  This time around I’m drawing Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, a character from DC Comics.  The first attempt was…well, it was okay.  It wasn’t a very fun drawing to do but I was getting used to the look of the character.  I also completely fudged the magic effect when I inked it.

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So I took another crack it and went for a more action-y pose.  I liked this one a lot more, much more fun to draw and all I need to do is paint it.

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Yesterday Brian Bastian, his brother Dan and I went down to River City Hobbies in La Crosse, WI for a signing/sketching day.  Downtown La Crosse has a big Halloween event each year and all the stores have trick-or-treating and events so we did drawings for the kids.  It was insane.  Dan and I drew while Brian helped us with reference material.  I can’t draw Iron Man’s costume for memory so him finding comics to use as a reference was a big help.  We had no idea how this event would go, but we started at 10:45 and drew and drew and drew straight through until 4pm without a single break in the line.  Between the two of us we did over 100 drawings.  My hand and arm are on fire right now.  It hurts to type.  Here are a few of the drawings I did.  I did a LOT of Elsas and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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I did so many drawings that by the end of the day I could barely sign my name.  My brain was pretty tired and I think I misspelled ‘Lipski’ a couple times.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with me.  What’s new with you?

 

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Suitcase Full of Blues

This morning I woke up and did a page count of the next Uptown Girl book to see how many more pages I had to go.  It’s a collection of short stories and comics, and I wasn’t sure how far along I am.  The goal is to make it 200 pages, the same length as 2012’s ‘Little Adventures’.  A smaller book than this year’s ‘A Long Forgotten Fairytale’ and 2016/2017’s ‘The Lazarus Heart’.  ‘The Lazarus Heart’ is going to be the big, and I am not 100% sure it will be out in 2015.  To be honest, ‘Fairytale’ took longer than I thought it would and it really got me behind.

At any rate, it turns I am about 60 pages short of the current book.  I had estimated I was around 40 pages to go, but I was way wrong.  At the rate I am going, I am thinking I’ll be done at the end of February.  I fully expect to have the book ready for the targeted release date of May 2015.  I was hoping to get started on ‘Lazarus’ in January, but that is not likely.

So, I need to kick it in gear.

I did get a page done today, thanks to Sophie hanging out with a friend and giving me some time to draw.  So, here it is.

suitcase full of blues

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Face in the Crowd

Fallcon was yesterday, the first comic convention in Minnesota without our esteemed leader, Nick Post.  His presence was missed but the folks who ran the show did an amazing job as always.  The conventions, I think, are in good hands.  Hats off to them and thanks to everyone who was involved.

I met a lot of people, signed a lot of books and caught up with some friends.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday.  I also did some drawing, of course.  I like conventions for a lot of reasons but one of my favorite things is getting my table set up and getting some drawing in before the craziness of the convention starts.  I was able to pencil a page for the new Uptown Girl book before the show started, and inked it throughout the day.  These days, penciling and inking a page in one day is a luxury.

And it’s a pretty funny page, if I do say so myself.

Conventions always give me a chance to draw things I normally don’t.  Yesterday I was asked to draw Harley Quinn from DC Comics.  I’ve never drawn her before but I really liked how she turned out:

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Conventions are also a great opportunity to do some people watching.  As people caught my eye, I did a quick drawing of them and I REALLY like how some of these turned out:

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The first guy in the middle row is my pal Lance Ward.  He’s a great guy and a swell cartoonist.

Anyway, that’s all I have for today.  Oh, wait, one more thing.  I will be doing a signing/sketching event at River City Hobbies in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 25th.  So, if you feel like a road trip, come say hi.

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Riding into Battle with Her High Heels on

colorSo, I designed the look of Uptown Girl a long time ago, and like 99% of comic book and cartoon characters, she rarely wears something different.  Each morning she puts on her star shirt, her plaid skirt and boots.

A lot of people over the years have asked about her clothes.  The..ah, creepy guys who really want to talk about her clothes I ignore, but there are reasons I designed her look the way I did.

First off, the shirt.  When I first settled on her look, it was a very spontaneous thing.  I do a little more design work for a character these days and tend to put a little more thought into a look now.  But back then I finished off her look with a simple star on her shirt.  The characters are simple in design, and I couldn’t really make a complex design work on her.  The fewer lines the better.  I felt she needed something, so I scribbled a star on her.  She needed an emblem, I thought, like Superman.  Looking back, I think it was the best part of her design.  In fact, even the color of the star meant something.  I mentioned last week I was working on a children’s book about a couch at the time.  The color of the couch is the same color as the star.  It was an inside reference to my other project.

optic nerveHer skirt and boots are also nods to a comic that was a huge influence on me, ‘Optic Nerve’ by Adrian Tomine.  When I created Uptown Girl I was working at a comic book store and we had a poster for Tomine’s comic that I liked a lot.  I liked the look of the skirt and boots, so Uptown Girl borrowed the look of the girl on the poster.  Her skirt is not the Catholic schoolgirl uniform skirt that some people (like those creepy guys) think it is.  Nope, it’s a punk rock skirt.  In my mind, Uptown Girl was working a music critic covering the underground punk scene in Minneapolis.  A scene that I know nothing about.  As for the boots, Uptown Girl’s heels are a lot higher than the character on the poster.  As I drew the comic, I was putting Uptown Girl in a lot more dangerous adventures that covering the punk rock scene, and I knew that her heels were not very practical, but I was used to her look and still haven’t changed it.

But for the new project I am putting more thought into the characters look and design.  Meet Alie.

Ali PBAlie is a character for an upcoming project between Brian Bastian and myself.  Without Samus_Zero_Suitgiving too much away, Alie’s design is inspired by Samus Aran from the Metroid video game.  Samus has an outfit called the Zero Suit.  I like the simple design and wanted to do something like that.
When I think of the stories Alie will be a part of, I realized that heels just won’t work.  I’ve never run across rooftops in stilletos and can’t imagine how painful and difficult that would.  So, her look has been changed.  I am about 50 pages into the book that Brian and I are working on, and I don’t think there’s any pictures of her footwear, so I can avoid some inconsistencies there.  Trust me, I get emails when I do make a mistake like that.  At least someone is reading my books, I guess.

To be honest, I am kind of surprised that I decided to change it.  Sure, I know someone wearing heels on an adventure isn’t safe or practical, but I always viewed my comics as fiction and fantasy.  But recently I started to realize that I am a part of the problem.  Almost every single female comic character wears heels.  Almost every single female comic character was created by a male.  As a father of a six year old girl who loves comics and loves drawing with me, I started to notice a lot of things that I wasn’t paying attention to or hadn’t noticed before.  I realize changing footwear isn’t changing the world, but for me, a character changing shoes also means that I am changing as well.  Maybe it’s not too late for Uptown Girl to change her shoes, either.

 

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The Curious Sofa

I love my garage.

That might be a surprise to some, considering I am not known for being handy.  This morning I changed a light bulb and I feel like Bob freakin’ Villa.  I like my garage because of all the stuff I find in it.  The other day I found an enormous box of mix tapes I made a long time ago.  What on earth am I going to do with them?  I found a bunch of photos from the last two decades.  Was I ever that thin?  Was I ever that young?  Yes.  I was.

Among the many boxes of unsold Uptown Girl books and Christmas decorations is a lot of artwork.  Sketchbooks, mini-comics and pictures.  I found an old sketchbook that has a lot of concept drawings for Tommy Chicago, the first comic Brian Bastian and I ever worked on together.  It was terrifying to see how lousy I used to draw.  I mean, I’m not Bob freakin’ Ross, but I used to be a LOT worse.  I guess some Uptown Girl characters were originally meant for Tommy Chicago?  Weird.  Some day when I start running out of stuff to complain blog about I’ll post some of that stuff.

I did stumble across a big leather portfolio containing a major project I was working on before Uptown Girl took over my life.  Artwork I haven’t seen for close to ten years.  Over 15 years ago I decided I want to create picture books for children.  So I wrote one called ‘Daisy’s Couch’.  The first version was…terrible.  But inspired by a lot of European comics, like ‘Tintin’ and ‘Asterix” I decided to redraw the whole thing comic book style.  The decision to redraw it in this style came a few months after I started Uptown Girl.  The new ‘Daisy’s Couch was bright, vibrant and big.  It was so much fun to work on for a few reasons, but one reason is that it was so different than Uptown Girl’s small, black and white world.  I loved this time of my life.  I had time to put out a monthly comic and work on other projects.  True, I had no social life to speak of, but it was creatively fulfilling.

After a year or so of working on both projects, production started on the Uptown Girl movie.  Even though it was a small, independent movie, it took up a lot of my time.  The movie was in the more than capable hands of Ben Mudek, so that was a relief.  But I still went to the casting auditions, and a few of the shoots.  Once the movie was made, the promotion began.  I did a lot of interviews and it was a very busy and fun part of my life.  Between the premier and multiple showings around the Twin Cities and then the DVD release party, I had very little time for anything that wasn’t Uptown Girl related.  I took a few months off from the Daisy book.

When it was time to work on it again, my art style had improved quite a bit and it looked the book was made by two different people.  Looking at it now, I don’t think the change was as jarring as it seemed at the time, but I didn’t think I could continue with the book with such different art styles.  So, I vowed to return to the book and start it again.  That vow remains unfilled.

I doubt I will ever redraw this.  I have a lot of projects I want to work on in addition to Uptown Girl, and I don’t think I will ever have time to go back to it.  It’s too bad, I think there’s some fun stuff here and some funny parts, and of course it’s a lot of fun to work in color but these days being a dad and husband and working a full time job take up a lot of my time and energy.  I am lucky I am able to find time to still put out a new Uptown Girl book each year, but I do wish I had time for other things

Finding old artwork can be a lot of fun nostalgia-wise but it can also be humbling.  Did I really draw that poorly?  Did I really think *that* was a good picture?  Looking at artwork that I did last week can also be a difficult experience.  I look at my artwork and I wish I could draw better.  I look at other cartoonists and I wish I could draw better.  I would love to draw like Stan Sakai, Kath Lete, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Amanda Conner, Kevin Cannon or Colleen Coover.  But I can’t.  I can draw like Bob freakin’ Lipski and somehow I have to okay with that.

Anyway, here’s a few poorly taken photographs of the Daisy book.  I would have scanned them, but as I said these pages are huge, they’re comic book page size, so that makes them…what?  11 x 17?

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What Lies Beneath

I am a pretty simple cartoonist.  A lot of artists draw on a tablet or right on a computer screen (sorcery!) but aside from touching things up and lettering in Photoshop, I stick with pencils, brushes, pens and paper.

And Whiteout.  I make a lot of mistakes.  Drawing is hard.

If you ever see my original artwork, there’s a really good chance it will have stuff glued to it.  If I make a mistake and I don’t want or need to redraw a panel or a page, I’ll simply glue paper over the offending image and redraw it.

I was working on a page for an upcoming project the other day and I needed to draw a super evil bad guy.  The intention was for him to look evil and kind of hunched over.  But I suck at drawing.  It was a terrible panel.

Here’s my “process” for when things go to hell:

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WHERE IS HIS NECK OH MY GOD

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Some honest self critique

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Taking advantage of technology’s newest resources.

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It’s like the drawing of the guy with no neck never happened. Let’s hope we can all move on.

 

 

 

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Break It Down Again

This morning I finished inking page 3 of a story that will appear in the next Uptown Girl book.  The book was going to be called ‘Imitation of Life’ but now I am not so sure.  The story that was going to have that title was scrapped and won’t be in the book, so I might be coming up with a new title.

I’ve demonstrated before my approach for when it comes to drawing and inking and Photoshopping a page, but I thought I’d demonstrate how I write a page and break it down.  The way I write is…well, I’m used to how I write.  But it’s not the smartest way to write.  My style probably wouldn’t work for others.  I tend to come up with a plot and I write that down and then kind of go from there.  Once I have the beginning, the middle and the end worked out I can get started.  I don’t like writing full scripts, I prefer to be spontaneous and surprised by the dialogue when I create a comic.  Sometimes I get into trouble this way, but not often.

Anyway, spoilers, I guess.

One of the key parts of the story is that we find out that Rocketman is famous.  Not Robert Downey Jr. famous, more like…”That guy working at the gas station?  Wasn’t be part of Milli Vaniili?”  The story requires the reader and Uptown Girl finding this out at the same time.  So, in order for this to happened, I thought Rocketman needed to recognized while he was out and about.  So, I needed Rocketman to be outside.  now, sure, I could have Rocketman simply standing outside and have someone come up to and recognize him, but that seemed a little lazy.  So I thought Rocketman needs to be doing something Rocketman-ish which means he needs to be doing something kind of stupid and/or dangerous.  I thought something involving a pogo stick would be a good idea.  So, how does he get the pogo stick?  I decided he’d find while he was looking for something else.  But what?

As I mentioned, I needed Uptown Girl and the reader to find out about the sort of celebrity status at the same time, so I needed to get Uptown Girl over to Rocketman’s place…because…(and this was my thought process at the time) he borrowed something from her and….she went to his place to get it back.  He lost it and while he was trying to find, he stumbled across his old pogo stick.  So, in the story, she heads to his place to get her dictionary (there’s a reason) back.  And that is where we join the story.

When I sat down to write and draw the page (again, I don’t have a full script) I knew I needed to have Uptown Girl start the page by knocking on his door and asking for her book back,.  Of course, nothing with Rocketman can be that simple.
Here’s the page:

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So, let’s break this sucker down.

Rocketman has a history of opening his door and revealing what his life is like when the girls aren’t around.  Like here:

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Uh, in case you haven’t read this story, he was playing video games in his underwear.  Rocketman’s apartment is a place where you’ll never know what you’ll find when he opens the door, like here:

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Anyway, for this new page I knew I couldn’t do either one of these gags again, so I thought it’d be funny if Rocketman was trying to keep something from getting out.  Why rabbits?  No idea.

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The rabbits thing though, it’s one of the reasons I don’t like writing a full script.  I was feeling a little strange when I drew this page and the rabbits likely came out of that mood.  The next sequence of panels need to have Uptown Girl ask about them.  She has to react to what she sees, and as the writer, I do too.

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Now, as the writer, I have NO idea what is up with the rabbits.  I don’t think Rocketman does either, and he also informs us he doesn’t understand reproduction.  This begs the question of how long has he has these rabbits?  Although I prefer not writing a full script, this is when things can get a little frustrating.  Rocketman and an apartment full of rabbits is the kind of thing that can hijack a story.  Suddenly this story can go from the original idea to Rocketman opening a petting zoo.  Despite the bunnies, the story must go on.  And Uptown Girl helps me out with this.

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I really like this page.  I feel it really captures the spirit of the comic.  We have the randomness of Rocketman, we have Uptown Girl keeping the story moving forward and hopefully the reader is entertained.  But most of all, I like this page because I was surprised by how this scene went.  Drawing comics can be very boring, so it’s nice to be surprised once in a while.

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