October 29, 2007

Grass Roots Promotions

Thanks to the relentless input by soon to be contributor Chris Tinkler, I've thrown together a promotional flier people can print off and take to their local comic shops.


(The artwork on the flier is care of Rodrigo Laiz, Eric Schock and David Montoro, chosen at random.)

Please, print a few out. Take them to book stores, comic shops, record stores, coffee shops, any place the would support art.

I'll also be blitzing a few more sites today to spread the word. I expect we'll be done soon with the Single Mailer so I want to make sure folks know about the artwork soon to be available and the cause.

Carry on.

October 25, 2007

Final days.

As we get close to the end of the first run of the 100 Artists Project: Single Mailer, I'd like to textualize some points, maybe get some feedback.

To start, there's a new poll up, please take the time to vote.

The site and the blog get on average less than 100 hits a day. Most of those come from people blogging about it and people clicking on my signatures in message boards. There have been a couple huge bumps when larger sites have written about it, but generally it hovers between the low to pathetically low end of the viewing scale.

What this means is that there is a concern I have for when the first book actually goes to auction and on sale. I want to make sure it gets a lot of views and a lot of support, otherwise it's going to be a lot of work for very little reward. (Reward of course being how much money we can raise.) I've tried submitting stories to Boing Boing and Fark, two of the bigger "blogs" to no avail. I also tried to submit the story to NPR, my local NPR station, several local news stations and papers and so far no one has responded. A contributing artist was kind enough to list us on Linkswarm and Metafilter, that raised awareness. I'm no media darling and I don't have a lot of contacts in the field or anything like that, I don't know if anyone does.

When this thing goes to auction, I'm worried we won't be able to get what it's worth. If you look at straight commission prices, if each artists charged me $100 for their art, that's $10,000, which seems kind of ludicrous. The idea that it's all original, has come in from all over the world and is assembled into a single book should add a few hundred to that price, like any DVD box set or leather bound graphic novel adds to those values. Then add that it's going to charity and surely a philanthropic soul would pay nicely for it...if they knew about it. If I started bidding for this at $1000, do you think anyone would bid on it? I'm torn between starting low to get people interested but would devaluate the art and starting too high which would be a good exchange for the work done but would scare off average bidders. There's no way I could start the auction at $10k, no one would EVER go with that, but that's what the art is worth. Even $5k sounds high, though technically that's only $50 per drawing, which is around 25% of what I know some people would charge for the art they've sent in.

There may be a silver lining in the print-on-demand part of this, where the digitized versions of the art are sold online. I'm hoping at least the artists who participated would get a copy, I know I will be, but I can't count on that. They've already contributed art, why also buy the book later? At what kind of numbers are we talking about; 20, 50 people? What would you pay for something like that, a book of basically 100 prints? $20? $50?

I'm kind of making this up as I go, honestly. I'm terrified of the upcoming binding process because I know the varied sizes of art are going to make the job expensive. I don't have a reliable scanner and I don't know if I'll be able to cover the listing and POD costs either. When all 100 pieces come in, it may actually be another couple months before anything happens, so I don't want folks to be disparaged, it's just a logistics thing. I'm sure even if I had the business acumen to file as a non-profit and receive some kind of funding that would take time to sort out.

And in the mean time, is there enough interest to start future projects? I feel I've bled the artistic world dry with this and doing more books after the first ones may be a decades long endeavor just trying to get participation.

Ok, enough doom and gloom. I'm still excited about it all and we're so very close to being done that it's just wonderful. I'm so glad so many people want to be involved. Thanks to everyone.

Carry on.

October 24, 2007

Hey Hal!

I got an email from a "Hal" today asking this question.

Are the 49 drawings on the gallery part of the first 100?

Yes they are. I haven't got around to scanning the rest yet (on my list) but they will be. I don't know if I'll add all of them yet.

Also, Hal? If you see this, the email address you provided bounced on me. So, welcome aboard, if you have any questions drop me a line.

Carry on.

October 21, 2007

14 To Go!

Two more pieces came in this weekend. I've added mine in as well which brings us up to 86. That's insanely close to being done with this first part. I'm quite excited about it and it makes me feel really pleased that so many people wanted to be involved.

Let's push this over the top and get this thing done!

Carry on.

October 19, 2007

Welcome Metafilter and Linkswarm Viewers

If you've come by via the Metafilter or Linkswarm link, I'd like to welcome you to the project. We're very close to completing the first part of the project, under 20 pieces of art needed, so if you want to get in on the first go around, best to do so soon.

The project is meant to be on going. As soon as we get 100 on the Single Mailer bit, I'll open up opportunities for more people to contribute more regularly; smaller sketchbooks, smaller mailers, digital work, etc. Some of it might take some figuring but I'm confident it can be done.

If you'd like to participate and have questions about anything, don't hesitate to contact me.


October 17, 2007

80 Artists!

Folks, we've only got 20 spots left for the 100 Artists Project Single Mailer phase. To date I've received 80 pieces of art, I'm very excited.

However, we still have 20 to go so if you want to get your piece in the first book, you'll have to do it soon. Don't wait, visit the site, get the info and send in some work. If you've been siting on the fence or putting it off thinking you have time, now's the time to do it.

Big thanks to all those people who've sent work in, you've shown real moxy getting involved in a project like this and I applaud you.

Carry on.

October 15, 2007

Break From Interviews

Apologies if you were looking for another interview today. I've done two straight months of interviews with contributing artists and I need a break. That's not to say they won't continue, but along with working on other things, I also need time to find people to interview. Most folks don't answer emails and I've near exhausted my list of people I "know."

To that end, if you'd like to be interviewed, feel free to drop me a line. More than likely I'll pick these up again in November some time. Hopefully by then we'll be close to completion of the Single Mailer.

That, by the way, is up to 80. Very excited to see the final 20 come in.

Carry on.

October 10, 2007

77 and 13

I got three more pieces in yesterday bringing the total to 77 the number of single pieces mailed in.

The Big mailer is also moving swiftly and will be at its 14th artist by next week. I applaud and appreciate the recent group who've acted quickly to make sure the project moves forward.

With only 23 more pieces to complete, I'm wondering if we'll be able to finish by the end of the year. With a few more pushes to art sites I think it's completely doable. I'm worried about fall semester finals at the end of November and vacations for the holidays. Traditionally these have alway been slow times for collaborative projects. Again, if you have a way to make this project publicly known it would be helpful.

Good work people, carry on.

October 08, 2007

Live Journal

You know what, if you saw this off your RSS reader, I apologize. I didn't want to make a new LJ user, I wanted to make a group for users to join.


So if you are an LJ user, please consider joining the group and telling friends about it.

Interview - Phil Shaw

I'm talking today to Phil Shaw, aka sacredbob from the Sacred Pie comic. Phil is a K-4 art teacher in New York where he and his wife both work. Phil thanks for taking time to talk with me today.

No problem- it's a pleasure.

You mentioned you've also done mural work for the city, what was that like both working on a large scale and working for the city?

I was the "team leader" for a group of six artists who worked on the murals under the direction of the principal artist, Jan Marie Spanard. (all of the work can been seen at www.albanymural.com ). It was a really great experience. Besides getting to make a living painting and do a lot of the work from a cherry picker(!), the murals were SO large that I worked 50+ hours a week just to finish it before Winter really set in.

It was cool working for the city itself- we met Mayor Jennings a half a dozen times. It's really a different world working at that scale and (to be honest) budget.

Were you doing this work while you were working on Sacred Pie?

Yeah- actually, I started illustrating and posting Sacred Pie within a few months of getting the mural painting gig. That was just about 8 years ago.

Did the mural painting, and later the teaching, have an effect on the comic?

Definitely. The teaching more than the mural painting even.

When I was doing the mural work, a lot of the focus was on light and shadow. trompe L'ioeil is French for "fool the eye", so the style needs to be able to look deceptively real. Comics (though they CAN be very naturalistically drawn/painted) are traditionally more stylized. Though the painting experience solidified my drawing and coloring abilities at a very formal level, it didn't help my comic-ing progress the way I wished it had.

After 2 1/2-3 years of mural painting, I started teaching art (I went to Grad. school, worked nights, blah, blah...). Once I started teaching concepts like contrast, emphasis, and movement, I started incorporating them into my comic work. I started noticing improvements.

Then, I started a comic-book club after school. To make sure I knew I what I was talking about, I started researching and (for the first time) came across Scott McCloud's books. Those changed the way I did everything. I won't get into how much I learned by trying to teach, because it would take me all day.

I'm sure your students would appreciate that.

Speaking of comics, where did you get the idea for Sacred Pie? I know the official background is about God and Lucifer and power. Is that how it started out?

Actually, no.

Sacred Pie started out as a "three mooks" comedy-esque comic (just set in a pseudo-religious-sci-fi universe). The three main characters (Roonas, Sid, and Bob) are based on myself and two of my pals from college (Roonas is still the official co-writer and comes up with, like, 65% of the really, really cool stuff.)

As the comic started to progress, though, we started to see the potential for bigger storylines and better ways to tell them. The aforementioned teaching experience and exposure to Scott McCloud being near the top of the list of influences (though Lucas's "The Power of Myth" essay, Asimov's "Foundation" series and Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" books helped with the writing aspects as well.

If you look at the earliest chapters of Sacred Pie and compare them to the most recent, you'll see a lot more elements that expand the world the characters live in- specifically the "religious" good and bad guys (respectively) Angels, Demons, God, Lucifer, etc.

Do you have a religious background that influences your work?

Yeah, I guess.

I was raised Catholic and still attend church. I'd like to feel that the ideas for Sacred Pie come more from the science-fiction realm than from the religious. I think that a lot of things that exist in religion can also exist in science. (Maybe the universe being created in "seven days" is possible, if you consider that a "day" to an immortal omniscient being is, literally, billions of years).

I like using the loose religious framework for the story, but I don't want to get caught up in the semantics involved with specifically quoting scripture, et al. I try to focus on the characters and the events in the story; the battle between God and Lucifer is too big for most of us to comprehend. Sacred Pie just focuses on some of the pawns in the game.

You mentioned your friend Roonas writes a lot of the comic, what's it been like working with someone for so long?

It's awesome. Roonas and I were friends before we started Sacred Pie, and it's definitely something that gives us an excuse to get together(despite our work/life schedules).

As far as the comic goes, though, having him as a co-writer is an invaluable resource. I can't tell you how many times he's saved the comic from a ridiculous idea or a staggering conflict in plotlines. I think anybody who creates a comic should have a co-writer or a collaborator of some sort; it's important to have someone who can look at it from a different angle. I don't think Sacred Pie would be what it is without Roonas's constant input.

Artistically, who has been an influence on you and has that changed over the years?

I think my biggest influences, artistically, have been fairly constant throughout the years. I learned the most early on (and still have traces in my artwork) from Captain Mark (Kistler), Ed Emberly, Jack Kirby (especially old Fantastic Four), and Bill Waterson (I loved how he could ride the line between cartoony figures and highly representational backgrounds(as well as the style of Calvin's daydreams).

Later on, I picked up influence by Drew Hayes (of Poison Elves), Jeff Smith, and Doug Tennapel, as well as online comic "peers" James Mason (Mase of Urban Shogun fame) and Amy Kim Ganter.

There's a lot of Waterson influence in others I've talked to. Was there ever a time you wanted to be a traditional comic strip artist?

Yeah. Like, all of seventh grade. I did a bunch of "Far Side" rip-off comics for the school newspaper and realized (after the first twenty or so ideas ran out) that I couldn't do "punchline" comics. I needed a narrative.

Sacred Pie is purely an online work and I know you guys want it that way. Do you think because of choices like that it's easier to be a successful artists today than say 20-30 years ago?

That's a "yes AND no" kind of answer.

I think it's much easier to get your work published (both online and in print) than it was even ten years ago. Because of the possibility of online comics, it's also much easier to expose your comic to a potential audience. There are only three places to get comics within a reasonable driving distance from my house- but every house on the block has internet access. And, you can pander to an international audience (many of my readers, for some reason, hail from Sweden and Denmark)

The downside, of course, is the flooding of the market If anyone CAN have an online comic- or in print- they will. And they do.

Well put.

I think this is an excellent idea, but the problem is you won't make any money from it. Not unless you're in that 95th percentile. As long as you go into it knowing that you won't get rich, and you're just doing it because you love it (or because 500 people reading your comic really IS enough for you), then you'll be fine.

I don't make a dime for Sacred Pie and I don't intend to. (Unless, of course, someone offered me tons of cash for an animated series or video game, but I'm not holding my breath.) I do it because I love it; and I want to see it through to the end of the story. If some people want to go along for the ride, more power to 'em.

Have you ever found that even though you're doing this because you love it that there are times when you feel you could be doing better?

Aye, that's the rub.

For the past 7 1/2 years, I've put pages up on every Sunday. It's anywhere from 1-5 pages (depending on schedule, work, vacation, etc.), but something ALWAYS goes up. If I could go back and fix all of the pages that I think I rushed through, or even (which is the case for too many pages) wish I could remove or replace, I would never get any further in the stroy. I try to do the best I can while still keeping my self-imposed deadline.

The death of so many online comics has been lack of updating. I've seen some really well written, beautifully drawn comics go under because they stopped making new material.

The pressures of work, real life, marriage, and kids (which I'll learn about soon enough) can bring a self-published comic down. My overall tendency is to get better as I go along, so I just keep going and updating (no matter what) and trust that the quality improves as I go.

Speaking of kids, are your students fans of your work?

Yes. The eldest of my students are (I won't mention the comic to the younger ones due to the violent content). A lot of them have even sent in fan art (or handed it to me in the hallways.)

I also (for the last 3 years) have done library lectures on comic creation for jr. high and high school students, as well as a weeklong class at a local college each summer. (Some of them I had hinted at submitting a piece for the 100 Artists Project, but I think they all chickened out).

I always end up picking up a new reader or three at these events (plus it helps me sharpen my own thinking about my comic work.)

That has to be heart warming to receive fan art from students.

It's awesome. Plus, they think I'm super-cool because I can talk (at length) about the X-Men, Spiderman, Venom, etc. They don't expect that kind of connection with a "grown up" most of the time.

You mentioned your wife also teaches, is she an artist as well? What does she think of your work?

No, she's a first grade teacher.

She loves Sacred Pie, though. She thinks it's neat that she gets to see the process from the planning stages (she's often about when Roonas and I plan), to the sketches, the drawings, coloring, etc.

Her whole family reads the comic now, too. (I even think a couple of them like it besides the fact that I did it, too)

I've kept you a while, do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

To the fans, I'd say- keep reading! Roonas and I have years and years of stuff we need to get to, and it'll keep getting better and better as we go along.

To my fellow artists, I say keep drawing! The more you do it the better you get. If you love it, keep going. Set a deadline for yourself and keep it; your fans will come if you're consistent.

Oh, and, uh, feel free to link to Sacred Pie (heh).


To see more of Phil’s work and to read a great comic go to http://www.sacredpie.com

October 03, 2007

Comic Store Gives to Charity

Seen on Boing Boing, comic book store gives 20% of sales to charity.

That's just one of the reasons I'm proud to announce that ComicBookShelf.com will donate 5% of every online sale to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund which supports comics-related first amendment cases.

We're also donating an additional 5% to the Hero Initiative which helps get financial help to golden age comic artists who never made any royalties from their priceless creations.

Looks like good ideas get around. If you frequenPublish Postt the shop in San Jose, CA, stop buy and buy something extra.

October 01, 2007

Interview - Steve Downer

I'm talking today with Steven Downer, comic book artist, cartoonist and illustrator. He's based in southwest Montana where he works on secret projects with Canadians.

Steve, thanks for taking some time to talk today.

Sure thing, Ben

Are you a full time comic artist or do you have another job as well?

I have a full-time job as a T-shirt art designer. Comics is just on an as- I- have-time freelance basis right now.

You're also quite young compared to a lot of your contemporaries, are you planning on any schooling or does the t-shirt company have your time all locked up?

I'd love to get some formal training, but yeah- I can't afford the time, or the tuition, unfortunately. But I intend to take some classes when time permits.

You recent art is very cartoony and stylistic, but you've done some very impressive realistic illustrations. Which is your favorite to work on.

I really love the fun energy of the cartoony style, and I think that's where my real niche is, but I love the way a more straight, realistic style allows a cartoonist to broach more serious topics with less difficulty. So a mix of both, but I think I do prefer a cartoony style.

Have you thought of, or have you yet, done straight up cartooning?

You mean a comic strip?

Not really.

I passionately love comics and superheroes, and I confess to being somewhat disillusioned with newspaper comics and cartoons on the whole.

While I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, I love almost everything about comic books, and I relish the opportunity to use color on a regular basis.

You're currently working with the Awesome Storm Justice 41 group, what's that been like working with them?

Man, I have nothing but great things to say about everybody over at ASJ41.

The writers, pencillers and especially editors- a better group of creators would be hard to come by, and I love the way they're all so eager to just have fun with the characters.

Other than ASJ, do you have a signature project, something that someone would associate with Steve Downer?

Not at the moment. Until a year ago, I published James Blond, a webcomic, on the Transplant Comics webring, and I have an upcoming print comic book, but at the moment I'm afraid not.

I guess I'm just spending too much time on those t-shirts... maybe I ought to slack more.

I'm sure those of us with full time jobs would love to slack more as well.

Who were your biggest influences when you were starting out and has that changed?

Funny, I was just thinking about this.

Growing up, most comics were disallowed in my home- apparently comics in the '90s were too "extreme"?

But the exception to that was Hergé's Tintin works, and I devoured those.

I also grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, and I think that Bill Watterson has had the biggest influence on me overall.

I really see Hergé's influence in backgrounds and composition, while Watterson shows through in body language and panel layout.

Bruce Timm's Animated Batman was something I obsessively copied growing up, and his streamlined work has really taught me a lot over the years.

Right now, I'd say one of my biggest influences is Sean Galloway- his minimalist, extremely stylize work always blows my mind. I'm also a huge fan of Darwyn Cooke.

The list goes on for miles, but I'd say those dudes' work will always get a few bucks out of me.

Are you excited about the Tintin movie?

I have somewhat mixed feelings about it, though- Hergé WAS Tintin, and without his guiding presence my expectations are kinda low. I'm honestly more interested in tracking down the old live-action movies he was directly involved with- they look really fantastic.

Artists are generally not happy with what they've done or how accomplished they are, but if you had to label it, what would have to happen for you to consider yourself successful?

I guess I'd consider myself materially successful if I make enough from my art to live comfortably on. But I don't think I'd really be a successful artist until I make something that really leaves an impact on people, y'know? I think it can be done with comics, and I want to have a hand in something that makes people stop and seriously consider something that they've never thought about before.

I'm sure that's the dream of every artist, but I also believe that it's honestly achievable. I guess I'd consider myself successful if I do something that makes a lasting impact.

If you could change something you do while creating, a habit or crutch, without any effort, what would it be?

Hmm... There are quite a few things, but I'd really like to get better about winging it on perspective. I get pretty lazy on that sometimes.

Is that something you think formal training would help or is it more patience and attention?

Both, I think. I have the technical knowledge to do it, but when I'm pressed for time it's very easy to just "guess" where vanishing points should be and fake it. I think having someone around to call me on it would be a big help, though.

Do you think it's easier to be an artist today than say twenty or thirty years ago?

I think it's easier to make money at it, mostly due to the global opportunities the Internet has blown open, but actually BEING an artist- the act of creating... I don't think it's any easier.

If you can recall, describe the moment or event that you realized you wanted to be an artist.

Hmm... I can remember drawing all my childhood... but the exact moment I defined what I wanted to be?

I was probably ten... At a friend’s house, sitting in the yard after watching Batman: The Animated series, we were tracing out of a Superman coloring book and I said, "Know what? I'm going to do this for the rest of my life".

So probably about then, I suppose.

Well now I feel really old.

I've seen the work you've done for ASJ, it's a really solid mix of medium. Which medium is your favorite or most comfortable?

I'm probably most proficient with a pencil and Bristol Board, as far as drawing goes. I'm also not half-bad with that "Photoshop" thing, too.

Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

I'm gonna take a line from Strong Bad here:

Ladies to the left for make-outs!

Dudes, to the right for high-fives!

and Artists.... I love ya all. Keep on creating.

Brilliant, well thanks for taking the time to talk today. Good luck with everything.

Thank you, and let me know if I need to break any Single Mailer stragglers' kneecaps.

You can see more of Steve's artwork on his website, http://www.downerillustration.com/

Merchandizing Update

There's a link to a shirt on the right, from there you should be able to get to the entire 100 Artists merchandise line.

Here's a flash badge if you were looking to snaz up a blog or site.

Here's the code for it.

<embed src="http://www.zazzle.com/assets/swf/zp/zp.swf?st=POPULARITY&tl=xadrian%27s+Gallery+at+Zazzle&ch=xadrian" FlashVars="path=http://www.zazzle.com/assets/swf/zp/skins" width="450" height="300" wmode="transparent" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash"></embed>

This now also appears on the main site's shop page.

Six Months

Unofficially, the 100 Artist Project started on March 30th. In six months we've assembled 72 pieces of art and mailed one sketchbook to 12 people who have contributed to it.

Since hit tracking was enabled in May for this blog and the main site, we've had over 3,600 vists and 4,800 page views; 2000 of those in September alone. All of this has come from word of mouth and people linking back to the site. For that I thank you. I'd also like to ask those that haven't yet to link back to either the main site or this blog. More links raise our Technorati score and increase search engine visiblity which hopefully translates to more artists seeing the site and eventually more people knowing about the auctions and the sales when they start happening. It's a small thing now, but considering it's all been ad-less referrals, I think it's a success.

We should have 2-3 more pieces of art coming in this week. I'm doing my best to find new art sites to alert to the project, if you have any suggestions let me know.

There should be an interview here today, and I've got one, but it's on a different computer and I may not get it posted until tonight. I apologize for the delay.

I'll be making up some shirts, buttons and bags to start with. The voting on the merchandise type is still open, but it's easy enough to make a bunch of things and let people choose. I'll be mixing in some phrases with the main logo, things like, "I drew for the 100 Artists Project" and some with the tag line "Standing Apart, Drawing Togheter" included. What I thought might be a cool idea is if you've already submitted a drawing, I've got a list of when your art was received and it has a number. I could make jersey type shirts with the logo on the front and your number on the back. If you are interested in that let me know and I'll do something up special for those people.

Thanks again for everyone who's participated. If you are reading this and aren't and artist but have a knack for organizational drudgery, I could use some PR assistance. One of the early contributors, Annje Jensen, has offered to help keep up the MySpace page, although lately all I've been doing on it is marking all the webcam-stripper invites as spam.

So happy half-birthday to the project and thanks again for your interest and help.