I once had a teacher in grade school who told me that she loved to read my essays because she could tell that I was enthusiastic about learning and the subjects I would choose to write about. There was just one problem though. If everything I wrote about was “the absolute worst” or the “absolute best” that wasn’t going to give me a lot of space or freedom to really make careful and thoughtful comparisons. So why is this little anecdote important to my recap of LadiesCon 2017? Because I’m about to throw that advice out the window and use superlatives like crazy. Wanna know why? Because LadiesCon 2017 was THE. ABSOLUTE. BEST.
For those of you familiar with our event last year, the first LadiesCon was essentially a testing ground to see if our vision of an inclusive Con would even be something that the community wanted to see. In a donated office space, we managed to catch lightning in a bottle and learned just how dedicated the Boston comics community was to making an event that was for everyone.
This year, we took that to a whole new level. We tripled the number of panels and doubled our space, guests, and vendors. We reached out to artists and creators who were making things that were original, beautiful, and even a little terrifying. The response from the community was once again warm and enthusiastic, and together we created a colorful and vibrant Con.
If you joined us for our puppet making event, you’re now the proud owner of a unique, handmade puppet. If you didn’t, you may still have a random puppet lurking around your house somewhere. Or maybe you’re looking at that sock that doesn’t seem to match any of the others in the laundry basket and wondering if it’s meant for better things. Wherever you are in the puppet making process, it’s important to remember that building the puppet is only part of the experience. Here are some ideas for what to do with your newly made felted friend.
When you think of industries where ladies are underrepresented, the ones that spring to mind are likely the tech industry, or the comics industry, airline pilots, STEM, construction….anyway. One area that might not be at the forefront of your mind is the tattoo industry. Getting tattoos in Massachusetts (where the Ladies are based) was illegal until 2000, and since then shops have popped up fast and furious. On my less than 2 mile walk to work, I pass four! So while tattoos have become fairly mainstream, the make-up of those who do the work still skews heavily male. However there are ladies out there, working hard, pushing their way in, and doing amazing work. Last year I met one of them and while she did a lovely piece for me, she was cool enough to tell me a little about her experience. This past December, I decided to visit her again to get an old piece reworked, and this time I was prepared, with Smalerie in tow to take notes. I combined getting a tattoo reworked with learning more about my artist, the industry, and even some best practices around getting a tattoo.
I had mixed feelings when I discovered that I would be the one scheduled to post after our inaugural LadiesCon. There is just so much to say, so many lessons learned, so many wonderful people, and so much magic that organizing my thoughts seems like an almost impossible task. Do I give a blow-by-blow of the day? Do I just do the highlights? How could I possibly thank everyone we want to thank? Well, if I learned anything this weekend, it’s that you need to move forward and at least try your best if you are going to get anything done. So in that spirit, let’s give this a shot.
The Con Itself
Those of you who were able to join us this weekend learned exactly what we meant when we kept saying that our con would be “small and intimate.” The unique space donated by Canopy City was fresh and inviting. It also provided some exciting and unexpected extras like an additional screen for the Boston Roller Derby ladies to show off their games, a central desk in the middle of the action to use as our own Mission Control center, and a layout that I couldn’t help calling the “Gauntlet of Awesome.”
We wanted to keep the focus on local and unique talent and we were able to do just that. I know that we have already featured a bunch of our vendors on our Facebook Page, but we have also updated our Con Info page to include a full list of our vendors who participated.. This way if you regret any items left behind, you will have a second chance to get it.
Here’s a little slide show of the calm before the storm:
The VIP Lunch and After Party
In addition to our Con Floor, we also offered two additional LadiesCon events. The first was our “Lunch with the Ladies.” This event got you early access to our vendors and guests (as well as their commission spots), a tasty lunch, and a nice swag bag to carry your goodies around in. It was a great and relaxed way to start the day.
A quick search on social media regarding the con and you are probably going to see pictures of our after party. Guys…. THIS. PARTY. Envisioned as a social experiment to see what would happen if you gathered a bunch of creative people together with a choice of several fun activities, this event went off the rails in the best possible way. Matt (Co-Founder and Managing Director at Canopy City), not only gave our guests the freedom to cover one of his dry erase walls with art, but he was so pleased with the results that he told everyone to keep on going!
The result is inspiring and just a gorgeous tribute to the event and the community spirit. Those of us on the LadiesCon staff have been using the word “magical” a lot to describe this event. But really, I don’t think there is a better word for it. Thanks to Bill Imbrogna for the photos below. If you want to see more, check out his facebook page:
The Ladies have been trying over and over again to properly thank everyone who made our dream possible. At this point it’s almost overwhelming to try to express how we feel about our supporters and friends. Instead, once again, I will say a simple thank you. Thank you to our hosts, guests, vendors, panelists, and volunteers. Without you, this simply would not have been possible. And to all of you who joined us for our first ever LadiesCon, thank you for proving that there’s a place and a desire in the Boston area for a con like this one. We are a mighty city indeed.
I wanted to end this post answering a question we received several times on Saturday – Will there be a LadiesCon 2017? YES and we have so much more planned. So please, stick around and see what we come up with next!
Did you attend LadiesCon 2016? If so, share your experience below.
Pancakes have been on my mind a lot lately. Part of it was looking over some of my past posts in search of motivation, but the larger part of it was probably the epic Facebook debate Tiny Doom and I had over the superiority of pancakes or waffles. I am staunchly on Team Pancake.
And so I wanted to prove the versatility and superiority of pancakes in a very Ladies of Comicazi kind of way. And so help me, that way is going to be fancy! It’s time to do some Pancake Art. *cue awesome power ballad
I haven’t done an art process post since the Usagi Yojimbo one almost two years ago. My output remains sporadic, but I did just undertake a project where I’m pretty pleased with the results. So it’s time for round two.
Not much has changed since the Usagi pic. I still work almost exclusively digitally on my Cintiq monitor, and I still use Pixelmator. My Mac Mini remains fairly functional and my desk is still a mess.
I sometimes draw digital birthday cards for people I like, including the other Ladies. I had an idea for a Labyrinth themed one for Smalerie kicking around for a while. So when February rolled around and her birthday was approaching, it was time to get to work.
I have never drawn any of the characters from Labyrinth before, so reference was essential. I quickly discovered that the internet does not have sufficient Sir Didymus and Ambrosius reference. Most of the image from the film I found were on the small side, fanart is of questionable accuracy, and – as Smalerie pointed out when we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts – the remaining puppets are not all in the best condition. So I had to dig out my DVD and get some screencaps of my own to sort out what Didymus’s hat looks like or how his knee guards are attached to his legs. (They really aren’t.) Continue reading
If you know me at all, you know that the future of hand-drawn animation is a topic that is very important to me. Hand-drawn animation (more commonly referred to as 2D animation, though I prefer the more descriptive term “hand-drawn”) is an art form that I have long loved. Unfortunately, much of the conventional wisdom about hand-drawn animation over the past few decades has been forecasting its impending demise. From clueless entertainment writers who deem the medium irrelevant in the age of computer animation to more thoughtful commentators who recognize that there’s a space for different styles of animation but that the market for hand-drawn movies seems to be drying up, nearly everyone seems convinced that hand-drawn is not long for this world.
So I was pleasantly surprised, if a bit skeptical, to come across a blog post entitled
“It’s Time To Admit That 2-D Animation Does Not Need ‘Saving'”, penned by my animation blogger colleague Charles Kenny. After so many years of gloom and doom predictions for the medium I love, a bit of positivity was a welcome change. But is there truly good news for hand-drawn animation and its fans or merely wishful thinking?
Boston Comic Con has come and gone for the year but comic conventions continue to happen all over the country just about year round. Whether you’re a frequent con-goer or you only visit one convention a year, you may be in the market for a souvenir of your time spent at comic cons near and far. If you are, then it’s high time you started a convention sketchbook. A convention sketchbook is convenient, inexpensive, and a great memento of your encounters with famous artists.
Benefits of a Convention Sketchbook
It’s cheap. Though getting the sketches you want can end up costing you (more on that later), the initial cost of starting a convention sketchbook is very low. All you really need is the sketchbook, which isn’t going to cost you much.
It’s portable. Bringing a few issues of comics for your favorite writers or artists to sign is easy. But when you want autographs from several creators in hardcover editions of their works, you’re going to be toting around a heavy load in what is usually a very crowded space. A convention sketchbook allows you to get souvenirs from many artists all in one small, easy to carry book.
It’s unique. It’s highly unlikely that anyone else will ever have a convention sketchbook exactly like yours. It can serve as a journal of your trips, of artist’s changing styles, and even of your personal tastes in comics.
As you know, the Ladies recently celebrated our first blog-birthday; for over a year now, we’ve been entertaining and informing you with our musings. We decided that a celebration was in order. Since few things say “party!” like a museum, we chose to hit the road and take a trip to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art!
Careful readers of this blog will figure out pretty quickly that this was a trip I proposed – while all four Ladies share an appreciation for kids lit, I have a particular fascination for it. Some of that is due to my job, which involves trying impart a love of reading on to impressionable youth, and some of it comes from having a niece and two nephews who all love reading. But beyond my interest in kids books for kids, I’m really interested in what adults like me get out of the experience of reading them. The best of these books work on multiple levels, often disguising the complexity of their ideas behind the simplicity of their story telling.
One of the masters of this is Mo Willems. Those of you with small children are probably familiar with Mo – he’s the author of several popular children’s book series, including Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggy, and my personal favorite, The Pigeon. Continue reading
I draw semi-professionally, which means I make prints sometimes and people buy them sometimes. So for today’s post, I’ll be talking a little about my process on a piece I did about a month ago. What I’ll be describing here is the method that works for me, which may not be the best method for everyone else of the best one out there. If you’re looking for advice on making your own digital art, I suggest you peruse the many tutorials available on the web and find one that suits you.
I switched over to drawing entirely on the computer a couple of years ago. I have a Cintiq monitor, which lets me draw directly on the screen with a stylus. I use a program called Pixelmator that’s a lot like Photoshop but several hundred dollars cheaper. My computer is a Mac Mini. My workspace is cluttered.
Shortly after seeing Stan Sakai talk on my husband’s birthday, I decided I wanted to do a Usagi Yojimbo drawing. I’d sketched some of the characters before, back when I first read the first few books, and they were really fun to draw. This time around, I wanted to do a more finished illustration, just for fun.
I usually start with a very rough sketch. I knew I wanted the Usagi drawing be a standoff between Usagi and another samurai with a composition reminiscent of classic samurai films. I hadn’t decided what to do with the other samurai at this point, so he’s just a loose doodle to give Usagi something to look at. As you’ll see in some of the later drawings, he went through a lot of changes.
The blue color I sketch in is a throwback to the non-photo blue pencils that animators and other artists sometimes use. It also helps me remember which lines are the rough sketch when I start adding in new layers.
I didn’t plan on showing my whole process when I drew this. So this is a recreation of the background colors I dropped in before I put in the details. I wanted to have a rough idea of the background colors so that I could make sure the colors on the characters with them once I started adding those. Plus it’s super easy to hide any layer that’s getting in the way if I need to see the sketch more clearly or something.
If you find this interesting and want to see more in the future, dear readers, I’ll take some in-process screenshots of whatever I work on next.
Usagi was already fairly tight in the sketch, so I went straight ahead to final linework without any intermediate sketches. I did still make some changes between the sketch and the final drawing, but it’s mostly the same. I didn’t bother fixing the mistake near the bottom right edge because the area ended up colored in black. I took some liberties with Usagi’s profile, but I think what I ended up with looks good and he’s still recognizable as Usagi. Drawing such a well designed character was an absolute joy.
I did end up doing a second sketch of one of the swords (which I forgot about until I made the layer visible again) because I needed to change the position from the original sketch to make with work with the pose. I also completely fudged the hand on the rough sketch, so they didn’t really work until I got the position of the sword right.
I actually like to start dropping in the colors before I finalize the linework. It usually means I have to go back and move the colors around if I make major changes to the linework, but it also helps me see mistakes in the drawing and gives me a better idea of how the whole thing is coming along. The colors are on a layer under the linework so I can color away and not worry about accidentally covering up a line.
This is also where the background color become important. I’d normally make Usagi’s colors brighter, but since this scene has an overcast sky/ham-handed metaphor for impending conflict, everything’s going to be darker.
Usagi’s shirt is covered in little dots, probably to add texture and visual interest. This particular detail was the least enjoyable part of drawing Usagi. I made the wise decision to put the dots on a separate layer so I didn’t have to worry about messing up the linework. Plus, it let me lower the opacity, since the dots struck me as too distracting at full strength. However, I also made the stupid decision to draw just a few dots and use the clone stamp tool to replicate them over and over. In theory this should have saved me time and work, but in practice, it just meant that I had to go back in and fix a bunch of partial dots by hand.
Shadows and Highlights
Yet another layer for the highlights and shadows, over the colors, but under the linework and the dots. Nothing fancy here, just enough to add some dimension and drama.
I think I dropped the gold detail at the base of the sheath on the other sword because it ended up being covered up by grass, which you’ll see later.
So now Uasgi’s done, but someone’s still missing…
I was thinking about having Usagi’s opponent be an existing character, but I decided to design my own instead. I went with a porcupine because I don’t believe Stan Sakai has ever drawn a porcupine character (though I could be wrong), I liked the design possibilities for a porcupine – particularly putting his quills up in a topknot, and “samurai porcupine” has a nice ring to it.
To my surprise, his design turned out to be really tough to nail down. Above is my initial sketch. My first though was that he would be really big, but I felt like the pose looked stiff and uninteresting. The shape of his head was giving me a lot of trouble.
I probably went through a dozen or so sketches that I didn’t like and deleted most of them. This guy probably had linework at some point before I decided that it wasn’t working. This is further proof that I like to color before the linework is finished. He’s getting a bit smaller and more upright here. I think I was still having trouble with the position of the sword.
The final sketch, sans background because the linework is very light for some reason. I still kind of miss the idea of a huge, hulking porcupine with quills all the way down his back. But at this point, I was getting frustrated and this pose worked.
The final linework, probably moved over after I drew over the sketch for better composition. Very close to the sketch expect for the addition of his sheath and second sword. I am pleased with how his head turned out and the pose, if not the most dynamic, is at least believable.
The colors, highlights, and shadows are all on the same level here, either because I just did it that way or because I merged the layers after the fact for some reason. The colors are pretty much the same as those in the abandoned sketch above. I wanted colors that would contrast with Usagi, so I went with warmer colors: a pinkish-purple for his body and a maroon shirt. The highlight on the blade was useful for making it visible against the sky.
The two of them together on the dummy background.
And the finished background, with a few layers of grass in front of the characters. The sky was done with a softer brush tool, a few different grays, and possibly a blur filter. I’ll take better notes if I do this again.
I had considered doing a second version with a tokagé between Usagi and the porcupine poking its head up out of the grass and freaking out, but I never got around to it.
So that’s how I draw, minus a few additional abandoned sketches, erased mistakes, breaks to play with dogs, and curses directed at dots.