Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

What I learned at Art Crawl

So this past weekend I took a trip out to James Street North for the the monthly art crawl. For those of you not familiar, James North is a formerly industrialized region of Hamilton that has undergone serious renovation in the last few years and now finds itself as the hub for the ever expanding art scene in the city of Hamilton. So I decided to take this opportunity to get to know some of the other artists who had set up shop in the area. To see what I could learn from some already established professionals.

I was lucky enough to find a willing participant in David Brace, the curator/owner of a small art gallery called BContemporary. Mr Brace wasn't able to talk with me at length during the artcrawl due to how busy his gallery was at the time (It wasn't until midnight that he was able to close things up that night) but he was more than happy to talk to me about his business the next day. So on Saturday afternoon I meandered my way past the exhibits (A very well made series of sculptures by Peter Johnston that drew inspiration from the works of Jackson Pollock) and sat down to discuss the business of art with Mr Brace.

 Brace himself has been running art galleries for over twelve years and this year marks the one year anniversary of his setting up shop on James Street. His earliest experience within the gallery scene came right as he emerged from University. His first job after graduating was four years working for the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Unfortunately, his work with the gallery came to an end during the economic recession in 1994 when the gallery was forced to downsize (Losing roughly 50% of its staff in the process). However before leaving the gallery David was taken aside by his boss who encouraged Brace to continue his work in the art world. It was then that Brace decided he wanted to own a gallery of his own.

Brace would eventually be drawn to his current location on James Street as he felt that the street held great potential. in the time since Brace moved in James Street has seen itself caught in a rapid wave of change as artists and other business owners have rapidly begun to descend upon the area to build this neighborhood into a thriving cultural mecca within the city. Despite this rapid change in demographic Brace feels the neighbourhood remains resistant to the shadow of gentrification and continues to maintain the culture of those who lived here before the art scene moved in. Indeed, just across the street from BContemporary is the Portuguese cultural centre which has thrived since the shift on James.

Our discussion eventually drifted to the status of art as a business and the shift we've seen over the past decade into how this business is handled. Mr Brace, like many others in the industry, views art as a co-operative business. Within the framework of James Street, Brace explains, this attitude manifests itself in the relationship between the various galleries located along James. Brace explains that art is a business that thrives on word of mouth. By directing his clients to other galleries on James Street, and knowing that his fellow gallery owners do the same, he can increase interest in the businesses along James Street as a whole and also increase his consumer base. The galleries on James Street act less like competing businesses and more as a collective who views attracting business to James Street itself to be the most important goal.

It's this sort of grassroots attitude, Brace explains, that is so important to making one's way in the artistic world. Which is why Mr Brace feels that one of the most powerful tools available to the modern artist is social media. Art is information and our society's shift from a concrete to digital world now means information is more easily accessible than ever before. After all, Brace explains, an art gallery is just an idea: It exists independent of the brick and mortar that houses it. And with our shift away from this brick and mortar format into the digital age we, as artists, have the potential to redefine what the idea of art really is.

Talking with Mr Brace was an absolutely fascinating experience; my only regret being that we discussed so much during our chat that there's no way I could fit it all into this article. If you find yourself on James Street definitely take some time to stop in to BContemporary and have a discussion with Mr Brace. I guarantee it will be worth your time.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ilustration Friday: Intentions


Bad one that is.

So another prompt from weeks gone by that looks interesting is "intentions" and this one gave me a good idea for a panel for the comic I'm working on in which a character declares his (Less than pure) intentions.

For this piece I drew inspiration from an old illustration by Perry Peterson:


I just loved the way the shadows framed the subject's face and wanted to capture that same sort of dramatic lighting.

So I started off with a round of thumbnails:

I settled on the first option as I felt it was the most menacing. From there I laid out a background:

Inked the drawing:

Applied some colour:

And finally added in some shading and the word balloons:


Illustration Friday: Capable


Or rather a lack of capability...

So lately I've been swamped with work on a comic and have been neglecting my Illustration Fridays. So I've decided to get caught up on some of the old concepts and use them as inspiration to design things for the comic I'm working on.

One of the prompts from a previous week was "capable" and I immediately knew what to do with this one: The comic I'm working on is about two less than capable treasure hunters so I decided to do a double page spread of them showing off their general incompetence.

Now the splash page I'm doing is actually an updated version of an older comic I did so i already had a version of this one done up:

Now I like some of the things I did in this old one (Mainly the textures) but I felt like I could do better. So I drafted up thumbnails some thumbnails trying to work out better shots. The first was a very similar, 3-point perspective shot with a bit more of an extreme perspective view:

But this one still didn't really speak to me. So I drafted up another version with a slightly different layout:

But it still wasn't speaking to me. Slightly frustrated I decided to take the entire thing in a completely different direction and drafted up a brand new concept that removed the monster and had the two of them as tiny figures helplessly suspended over a wide backdrop:

Bingo. This was the concept I liked. So with the idea of how to lay things out taken care of I had to look into how I wanted to render this scene. I would end up drawing my inspiration from the illustration work of Robert J Lee:


I wanted to render the scene in a similar, heavily textured way so the viewer would really get a sense of the rough stonework of the tomb the two characters were exploring.

With that decided it was a simple matter of laying down the groundwork of the scene

And building things up from there...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

On Emotional Labor

Hey everybody,

 I want to take a brief break from throwing my artistic endeavours into your collective faces and discuss a concept I've been looking into lately. Now a few weeks ago I was introduced to this podcast featuring an interview by Mr. Seth Godin in which he discusses the emerging social media hub that is web 2.0 and how somebody can go about making an impact in such an environment. One of the main concepts Godin outlines in the podcast is the idea of "Emotional Labor" which is what I really want to talk about today.

Emotional labor is, at its core, the idea of reaching out to others within the digital environment. About doing something others are either incapable or unwilling to do and about making oneself an expert in one's field. The question behind emotional labor is "What am I offering others?". To better illustrate this concept I'm going to take a quick look at three comic creators who have made a name for themselves online by going above and beyond the role of simple comic creators to instead offer their own expertise within the world of comics...

Now the first person I'd like to talk about is someone who should be familiar to anyone who's interested in comic books: Scott McCloud

Scott originally made his mark on the comic world with his light-hearted, retro-futurist comic series Zot!  back in the 1980s but it wasn't until the publication of his groundbreaking graphic novel Understanding Comics that he would truly achieve recognition from the larger comics community. You see Scott McCloud has established himself not as a comics creator, but rather as a theorist on the medium of comics itself something that no one had attempted since Wil Eisner.

Now all this is well and good but we're not here to talk about admirable comics creators but rather emotional laborers which leads us into Mr McCloud and his presence on the web. You see Mr McCloud has een heavily involved in the opportunities that the internet offers to comics creators since near the internet's inception and has established himself as one of the most authoritative and professional voices of comics on the web. His website, http://scottmccloud.com/, has evolved over the decades from a small personal blog nto a veritable hub for comickers on the internet.

But it wasn't his own work as a comic artist that attracted so many followers (McCloud himself hasn't released a new published comic of his own in almost a decade). No, the real thing that has drawn so many people to McCloud isn't the work he's published but rather the work he does to promote other people within the industry: The vast majority of articles on his website consist of Scott's commentary and analysis of various events and works within the comic industry as well as advice for aspiring comic creators

Next up is Canadian web comic author Ryan North. Now Mr. North's main claim to fame is that he is the creator of the webcomic Daily Dinosaur Comics; a fixed art comic detailing the philosophical discussions of three dinosaurs that has over 2,000 instalments under its belt. But it's not his comic that has made North such a well known figure within the web comics world ut rather his networking abilities and, more importantly, the technical contributions he's made the medium.

North's two biggest and most famous creations are the web comic search engine Oh No Robot : A search engine servicing almost 2000 different web comics allowing one to search through transcripts of individual comics. Ryan's other major contribution is the web comic specific advertising service Project Wonderful an advertising service originally intended for web comic creators that has since branched out into other fields.

The final person I'd like to talk about is Jeffery Rowland, creator of the web comics Overcompensating (A wildly embellished journal comic) and Wigu. Like North, Rowland has achieved fame in the webcomics world less for the comics he creates and more the services he offers to other web comic creators: Rowland is the owner and operator of the web comic merchandising company Topatoco which offers merchandising and distribution services for over 25 web comics. Rowland has made his mark not through his own comic endeavors alone but by the work he's done to help his fellow artists in the promotion and distribution of their own work.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Progress Report on a Major Project or "How I Spent my Spring Break"

I've been working on a mini-comic to be handed out at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year and I just wanted to share a preview: