May 10, 2013

Post Con Post pt 2, The Future is Now!

Just the one new image today as I've spent the last week getting used to my new CINTIQ. Yup, finally jumped in with both feet and it feels good. I picked up the new 24 inch HD touch a couple days after the con and have spent my time since then trying to get used to the new workflow. I've gotta say the first few days were tough... this thing is freakin huge and just a tad intimidating. Add to that the fact that I must now put to the test the idea that this tech will enhance my final product in some way, and it made for a nerve wracking couple of days. Was I going to put stylus to monitor and make magic, or did I just waste four grand? Of course neither happened. I put stylus to monitor and then spent 2 days trying to make stylus and monitor do what I used to be able to do with my tablet. Driver issues... ugh. It's all up and running smooth now though, and I'm getting used to the experience of being able to look where I'm drawing again.

I've also been looking at around my studio practice with a bit of a critical eye, trying to find ways to improve on what I'm already doing. First up I'm going to try to rededicate myself to traditional art. I had a blast inking a bunch of sketches before the con and I'd like to keep that going in a slightly more structured manner. I'll put together one piece a week from now until Edmonton, whereupon I will review this system and opt to continue or cancel it. First up is Erik Larson's Savage Dragon, then Sleepwalker, and after that I have no idea. I've got a long list of great characters, but I'm also open to suggestions (drop 'em in the comments section here or in any future post) if you've got 'em.

As for digital work, I'm going to be returning to Wonder Woman soon so that I can make sure she's ready for the Edmonton Expo. I mentioned before that I was disappointed to leave a third of DC's Trinity behind for the Calgary Expo so I'll be looking to wrap her up in the next month or so. I've also got that Green Arrow that I might polish up. Then it's back into some X-Men, with a Black Background Nightcrawler that I've got prepped but haven't had a chance to spend any real time on. From there I'm going to be trying to put together a Wolverine print, and possibly a Deadpool as well. Then there's the DD/Elektra piece that I was tinkering with a while back. And the Storm that I was working up for Shelley. Whew... lot's to do, but my print portfolio has quite a few empty pages so I guess I need to keep on it.

Alongside the littany of prints on my to do list are the Commissions that I've received. I'm still working on Dr. Steel, though it's very close to completion. Then there's a Red Son print that I was asked to develop based off of the Superman in my Trinity print. It's just in the initial stages now, but it's coming along nicely. I was also lucky enough to be visited by the couple who commissioned Mockingbird last year. Turns out they've got a wall dedicated to Marvel awesomeness and they'd like me to put together a Nick Fury Jr and a Coulson print for them. How could I say no? As if that wasn't enough I've also got a wicked cool Street Fighter piece that I'm doing up for an Edmontonian Martial Arts Club. I've never had to juggle to many projects at once, but I'm super excited to get down to business on each one and see where it all takes me.

While I'm working on all of these single image projects I've also got a few others running along in the background. I'm still working on the super secret blasty blast with the fantastic Dan Markin. It's something I've never done and so I can't say when it'll be ready to show to the world, but I'm hoping I'll be able to start sharing details by the end of summer. Working on the blasty blast has also inspired me to start a similar project that's all my own, but I haven't even had time to sit down and create a space to collect notes for that yet, so who knows where that will go. AND while all this other amazing stuff is going on I've also got a writer looking for some spec work that may or may not end up with my producing a batch of illustrations for a series of children's books. I feel like that one's going to take some time to really dig into, but if all goes well I think it will also be very rewarding.


Throughout all of this I'm hoping to increase the attention that I pay to my online presence. Some of that will turn into extra posts and other such stuff here on the blog, and the rest will go to twitter and Behance and CG Hub and Deviant Art and who knows what else. I'm finally rounding that corner, feeling a lot more comfortable with the quality of the work I'm producing and willing to let the world have a look for themselves.

Oh, and I still want to get back to those 1/3 size landscape prints, and famous comic cover recreations, and, and, and...

2013's been hella good to me so far, and with a baby on the way, a ridiculously supportive wife (she's currently pushing me to sign up for the Winnipeg con a month after her due date), amazing friends, and a ton of really interesting projects ahead of me I'm pretty sure it's only going to get better.

Ever have those days where you just love your life? I'm having those a lot more often now :)

Thank you

May 2, 2013

The Post Con Post

The Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo has come and gone for another year and I just wanted to take some time to reflect on my experiences. I think I might turn these post con posts into a personal ritual for myself, as they form significant checkpoints for my artistic development, giving me a chance to both reflect on the results of last few months of work and map out a plan for the next half of the year. While I do that, I'll drop a few of the original pieces that I brought to the con so you can take a look at anything you may have missed.

First off I wanted to say that I had a ton of fun at this years Calgary Expo. I met a lot of amazing people, and had some great conversation. What I really enjoy though is getting to spend some time with the folks who have come by my table in years past. It seems crazy to think that you can get to know someone in five minute increments over the course of years but I've gotta say I really look forward to those few minutes each year and I'm finding they're quickly becoming the highlights of my convention time.

On a personal note, I had a rough time leading up to the con. 2 funerals, a cancer diagnosis in the family, extra shifts because a co-worker lost her husband unexpectedly, taxes, and a rather depressing realization that my new monitor was displaying images that my printer was incapable of reproducing. Pretty much April sucked. I had been working 12-16 hour days for the previous couple of months and so with all this bad news swirling around me I quickly hit a point where I needed to step away for a while. As such I didn't get the Wonder Woman piece done for the con and I'm a bit disappointed in myself because of it. That said I did learn some new tricks in terms of color control and the like and managed to get the prints that I had done into a functioning state. I picked up a Spyder and started into the world of color correcting and during my week of down time I caught up a bit on some of the great games that dropped last year and put some time into a project I've been picking away at in the background. It was a rough month, but I made it to the end and had a fantastic time at the con and so I have to put a big thanks out to my always supportive wife and the great people of the Calgary Expo.

On the business side, I pushed the changes that I made to my table for the Edmonton Expo a little farther, pulling my portfolio book off the table, and instead replacing it with a book full of original art pieces. This was amazingly successful for me, and contributed a great deal to my still being able to say that every con I do is more successful than the last. Another change we made at the table was a redesign of our print organization system. This had a less obvious impact on the experience, but it was nice to be able to help every customer that walked up without having to spend time rifling through 2 different boxes with a bunch of prints stacked on top of each other. It eased a bit of the stress of the experience and for those out there who exhibit in artist alley, or are thinking of doing so next year I've gotta say it's worth the time and money to put together a proper, easy to use system for this kind of thing. My wonderful wife also took some time to put together a fancy spreadsheet to use for tracking sales during the con. We could both access it from our phones, so it was quick and easy to use, but even better was that it's pretty damn comprehensive, so I can look at it now and see exactly what was working and what wasn't. On the list of things that went well is the black background paintings that I've done up over the past year. These accounted for about two thirds of the prints that I sold so I was quite happy with such a positive reaction. The book of original works (as opposed to prints) was also hugely successful, bringing in almost half of my total revenue for the weekend. Ideally I'll put together enough work between now and Edmonton to properly fill the book, but even at 2/3 full it proved itself.

Of course no con comes without teaching some lessons and this one was no different. Right off the bat I found that the amount of time that I put into the new prints of this year didn't at all translate into sales. In fact, the best sellers (by far) were the pieces that I would have considered the most raw, and were certainly the ones that took the least time to complete. the takeaway there for me is to focus on  speeding up so I'm not relying on just a few new pieces for each expo. On a different note, I also picked up a little trick from the booth next to me (Jamie Tyndall). When Jamie and his wife were setting up I noticed that they were taping down their portfolios to the table. This allowed them to be pretty specific with their table layout as there was no worry that the books would be sliding around. From that point on I did my best to keep an eye on what they were up to in case there were other great ideas to... borrow.

Next post I'll go over some of the plans I have for the coming year, but I've created a big enough wall of text for today.