Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SmART School, and 2014

So, the last posted blog entry about SmART School was about two months ago. There's a few reasons for that, but the best summary is that of everything I learned in Rebecca's class, the most important one was that I was truly miserable in my current situation and trying to step up the artmaking resulted in me breaking myself.

I mean, I learned other things, too. I think Rebecca finally got the idea and practical application of a finished painting's polish through my skull, and we also worked on color, and shape-thinking, and edges, and pushing gestures and being really thoughtful and deliberate about composition. I did good work.

Sword of Justice, 11"x17"

It's really just unfortunate that the main thing I took away from the class was I needed to get out of Starbucks. I think I needed that wakeup call - I'm a creature of habit, and the day-to-day of work had kind of faded into the background - but I found myself spending my days bone-deep tired and flogging myself through paintings I didn't have the spare energy to care about. No amount of sleep was enough, no amount of espresso could perk me up, and since I was lacking the emotional capacity to engage in my art I was leaning entirely on rote-learned technique and Rebecca's paintovers and critiques.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back, but it's also forced me to look at the wider picture of what I've done with my art in the two and a half years since I graduated school, and it's kind of bleak: while I've definitely improved technically and gotten real milestones under my belt (Spectrum, a book cover, two group shows) I have absolutely fallen off the horse in terms of promoting myself.

There's so much I have to take a hard look at. I need to work faster, and improve on my color thinking, and figure out where the hell I lie in the commercial/gallery spectrum, and work specifically toward one of those two instead of doing my current waffling in the grey area, and promote in that chosen direction. I need to keep myself active in the art community instead of shrinking back away from it every time I'm discouraged. I need to reach back out to mentors who I've gone into radio silence on.

I need to get myself going. 2014 was a year of a lot of very good stuff and also a yawning pit of floundering and not doing much by way of pursuing my passion as if I had any intention of making it my career.

The first step is realizing it. The next step is getting one foot down in front of the other.

So here's to 2015: A new job, a renewed fervor, more skill and more knowledge than before. There are things are brewing; I just need to grasp the will to make them reality.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SmART School Week 8

Those of you keeping track might have noticed that there was no Week 7 post.

Right on the tail of the class before last, I was ill - and then I went down to Florida to be with my Dad as we said goodbye to my grandfather. He died on the 19th, a Sunday, and though I was back in New York in time for last week's class, I hadn't actually gotten a chance to draw or paint at all since the previous week. So I showed up for class more or less to just be there, and painted as much as I could after it ended, and didn't bother to write a post about it.

And then I walked into one of the worst weeks at work I've had in a while, and didn't get a chance to make art at all until yesterday.

It's been rough, man.

I did get a lot done yesterday, but I feel awful over how much time I've lost. There's nothing to be done but to go forward with a fire, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SmART School Week 6

Rebecca had told me to do one more color study off of her correction, and bring that into class to confirm that I understood where she wanted me to take my color.

This class was mostly me getting the go-ahead on getting the painting itself started: my study was more or less there, and the corrections Rebecca had were minimal (which is good, because something with the Dropbox screwed up and the paint over files disappeared).

So I started the painting.

There is nothing quite like the hatred and despair of a first scrub-in, where everything is awful and nothing works. Usually it's not quite so dramatic, but this was a palette I was still adjusting to, and I've been fighting off a cold/fever for a bit now which of course makes things harder to be positive about.

Usually when I get like this, where my emotional response to my piece is ">:|", the answer is I have to pick a part and just render the crap out of it, to give me something to feel good about.

I kind of lost the drawing in the hand I was working on, and clearly didn't get to the left hand at all, but this makes me happy. Cutting into the hair and getting in the volume of the flesh has gotten my momentum rolling again after what seemed like five years of color studies, haha.

Beyond working on this, I also started thinking about my next piece. I had originally been intending to work on a commission for a friend, and had even taken reference - but it's another ethereal lady with a tree, and doing two of those in a row seemed like a poor choice. So I started looking through my stock of unused thumbs and unexplored projects.

What I found was the original set of thumbnails I did for the IMC from the summer before last. I'd dropped these in favor of what eventually became The Long Path, and for good reasons - but there was something about these that made me come back. Rebecca chose number one, and I started to gather reference for my frankenstein as the week ended.

I have more to do before this is ready to go to drawing, and I need to figure out what part of my gesture is actually achievable by human bodies, but the heart of the painting - Oberon's gesture - is there. Exciting!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SmART School Week 5

This was a kind of frustrating one.

I had spent the previous week running headlong at a deadline and Rebecca had told me not to worry about the stuff I was doing for Belle Dame, but back before that commission had hit she'd asked me to pull up one of Waterhouse's multi-figure paintings to key off of, and I had enough time to do that.

In class, I got some final critique from Rebecca on my cover, and then mentioned that I'd also put this into the folder. "This is the one I'd been thinking of!" she said. "I want you to use it like a map."

As I sat down to do just that, I'll admit that there was frustration even as I understood why this was important to do. This was like nothing like I'd been shooting for in my studies - beyond the fact that I'd been going for a different palette, this was so much more chromatic, and had much more contrast, than anything I'd pictured for the piece. This was, in my thinking at that moment, a left turn from image that had been forming in my head.

My frustration turned the 'map' study into a gross muddy mess, which in turn only furthered my frustration. I knew why Rebecca was having me key off of Waterhouse so directly - we'd discussed how he was a master of limited palettes and using contrast and chroma like scalpels, all if which I aspired to - but all I could see was a horrible color study. (It's dumb, looking at it now and seeing how I was pulling down my chroma in really gross ways, paying no actual attention to value... congrats on setting yourself up for failure, Jenna.) So I did another one, more in-line with the mood I was fixated on and the colors I was comfortable with, and sent them off.

Rebecca returned a color study with the actual clear separation of values and handing of color that I'd missed in my stew of 'but it's not working ): ): ):'. She told me to do a study off of hers (with the Waterhouse nearby), and then go to paint.

Which is, of course, when I got sick. So I'm bringing in the study and not really anything else today to class, which is a bad feeling in and of itself, but at least I know I'm just shy of actually getting to paint.

But man, I forgot how hard it is to break out of comfort zones. It's a gross, uncomfortable process. I like to think that I push myself in my art, but there's always that edge that I shy away from before I even get close, and in doing so it's easy to forget it's there at all. I've been out of school for a couple of years now, and the IMC is more about flying by the seat of your pants past your own limits than about methodically working on your ruts and comfortable old ways of thinking.

This is the first real block I've encountered in Rebecca's class thus far, which kinda gives me something to judge myself against: where I am in the steps leading up to this is clearly something to be proud of, because she is absolutely nailing me to the wall over my color and value and let everything previous by with varyingly minor degrees of critique.

So, alright. This is where I set my shoulders and work, then.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Whiskey and Water

About a week and a half ago, as I sat in a panel at Illuxcon, something amazing happened: an email landed in my inbox from Elizabeth Bear, about doing a cover for an ebook version of her novel Whiskey and Water - to go live October 4th.

For those of you who don't know, I've been a big fan of Elizabeth Bear and her books for years - those of you who've been with me for a while might remember that two years ago, as pieces for school, I painted mock covers for several of her novels, Whiskey and Water included. The deadline for this was insane, but there was no way I wasn't taking the job.

That evening, I thumbnailed while waiting on line to get my Showcase table, surrounded by great artists, friends, who were excited to help me bounce ideas around.

I sent Bear this thumbnail the next day, on Saturday. On Sunday, I collared Drew Baker just before he was about to leave, and took my reference.

At this point, between the incredible weekend of Illuxcon and the fact that I was working on my first book cover commission, for Elizabeth Bear, due in less than two weeks, I was more or less in a screaming panic - which is why this is the first drawing that I did:

This is where last week's SmART School class came in - and it is thanks to Rebecca Guay that what I turned over for Bear's approval was this instead:

I turned around revisions the next day, character details that I'd neglected or forgotten. I'm really, deeply grateful that this was a book that I'd read and gotten immersed enough in that even years later, I had a clear idea of who I was painting and what I wanted to show.

(Tattoos are hard. I had some specific things that the tattoos were - neo-tribal, mazelike or labyrinthine, intense blackwork - but since I'm not a tattoo artist and also not about to copy someone else's work, it brought me up kinda short. I'm very pleased with the design I wound up making, but that was probably the biggest single issue in this process that wasn't the 'Jenna is too overwhelmed to make good picturemaking decisions' moment from before.)

Those revisions were approved, and I went to the board, a week ago.

I painted small - a board 10" on the longest side - and I am still a little shellshocked that what I needed to have happened, happened: the paint went down as it needed to go down, the decisions I made were the correct ones, the painting built itself up and did not stop.

And on Sunday, I finished it.

It's time for me to stare at a wall until it penetrates that I finished my first cover, for my favorite author, in less than two weeks start to finish. I'll leave you all with how it will appear when it goes live on the 4th.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SmART School Week 4

Whoops, I'm writing about last week's class literally while sitting in this week's class.

So what I brought to class last week was more prepwork, gearing up for the jump to paint.

I'd done that set of color studies for the mid-week critique, and gotten some good feedback from Rebecca about how I was losing my value structure in pursuit of these colors I had in my head. The solo study was done larger, so I could zone in a little more on what I was trying to do. I also got the drawing on the board and scrubbed in a value study.


I also brought something completely different into class!

This has nothing to do with Belle Dame Sans Merci. But that weekend previous, as I was sitting in a lecture at Illuxcon on September 20th, I got an email enquiry about doing a cover for an ebook release of a book. The enquirer was the book's author, Elizabeth Bear, and the deadline for the cover going live was October 4th.

I did thumbnails that day and got one approved, and did my drawing on the day after I returned from Allentown, and I brought it to class because I had gone from nothing to a final drawing in less than four days and just knew the panic was affecting my judgement. 

I'm going to make a separate post about the process of this cover, but I just want to say that I could have wept with gratitude over the critique I got. I went from a drawing that is a bunch of poor decisions stitched together awkwardly, with a figure who was just miles away from the mark, to.... well, I'm sitting here with a finished painting waiting for one last critique round, aren't I? :D

Monday, September 22, 2014

SmART School Week 3

You know when is the best time to post about a class? The night before the next one, just at midnight.


I ran myself into a bit of a corner this week. I needed the full, finished drawing for Rebecca, which meant I needed a full model shoot... which I couldn't rangle until that Friday. That Friday was also the opening for the Spectrum exhibit at the Society of Illustrators, and then Saturday was Art Out Loud, and then Sunday and Monday I had work. So I had a bit of a sprint at the end!

Here's the photo comp that I put together and projected onto my paper, as the base for the drawing:

Beautiful, right? Haha... anyway. About 90% of that comes from my own photos, with the tree in there from my sketch, and the skirt composited from a couple of different images. No armor on the lower figure, and the wrong legs, both of which I referenced separately because it was honestly easier at that point.

Here's the final drawing that I took to class!

I was seriously expecting to get killed this week, since here was where I needed to have solved every inch of the image in preparation for the painting. Instead, this is the paintover I got:

This class is forcing me to come to terms with the fact that I'm operating at a level where I should be trusting myself. I will never get it perfect, but after three consecutive weeks of critique that involves things being pushed, not fixed, I need to start sitting down each time to work without the nagging anxiety in the back of my head that maybe it's all been a fluke and this is the day it stops. It's not just SmART School that's giving me this push to change my outlook - the IMC supports it, as does this past weekend at Illuxcon.

I definitely am still in a position where I have a whoooole lot to learn, but you know, I'm no longer a college student making college student work. I have a vision and a voice that I'm developing, I have definite technical strengths that I am gaining more and more confidence in tapping into, and my weaknesses are being worked on with each new piece.

Though, I mean, it's not like it's ever going to be not humbling to have Rebecca Guay have minimal crit for a drawing of mine.

Monday, September 15, 2014

SmART School Week 2

The run up to week two saw me kind of miserable - not because of overall miserableness, or because I was disappointed in the thumb chosen, but because all I had to bring in was one sketch. I mean, it was all I was supposed to bring in, but it just din't seem like enough. I whined to my long-suffering roommates on this very subject for the entire process of drawing this.

I was braced to apologize for my lack of work... but then class came and actually Rebecca loved it. (My notes for class included, "!!!" in several different spots.) There wasn't a lot of critique to give (??!) because, as Rebecca said, the final drawing was where she was going to nail me to the wall over every detail, whereas the sketch was only really good to show my composition, value, and gesture. 

Here's her paintover, with some noodling with the idea of a translucent dress. All I basically have to fix are some gestures that can be made better, and some tangents.

Let me tell you, I was kind of taken aback. I'm a few years past the bad artistic self-regard issues I had from college, but it still leaves me a bit bewildered to present a sketch I think of as a sad minimum and receive praise, encouragement, and minimal things to fix. Next to some of those !!!s were ???s, haha.

(I also brought some studies to class. The dress ones were kind of worthless, but the armor was definitely worthwhile.)

My drawing is due tomorrow. Let's see how that goes, yeah?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

SmART School Week 1

Well, my next class is in two days, so clearly now is the time to talk about the first class? Hah.

I was in the middle of a crash during my run-up and preparation, which was crap timing. I still got everything I wanted done, though: full thumb set, four thumbs picked, enlarged, and cleaned up, one picked and sketched out tighter, and some color studies put together.

Having been to the IMC three times, Rebecca knows who I am and who I want to be as an artist. It was really interesting to watch her process of getting to know the students who were new to her - the project that she'd assigned to them was brilliant for the purpose, and gave a lot of insight into the individuals - but I was really gratified when she was able to just jump into working on my piece.

Essentially, the thumb I'd picked was undoable without having my actual model sit on an actual horse. It was disappointing - I'd really fallen in love with the gesture - but I need to be more aware of the actual contraints I have in the way I work. We went with number 4 as the alternate, and she pointed out things that I should know, like, pick one character to halo, and, the shape of things is incredibly important when using silhouettes.

Here's the paintover.

This is a not-very-good writeup of a class that actually went for about 3 and a half hours, I know. Partially at fault is how long it took me to get around to writing things down; partially, the lessons from this week were things about care and deliberateness that are hard to talk about at length because it really is all about getting a feel for visual rhythm, and putting in the time to make it speak.

Mostly, though, I find it hard to be enthusiastic at the moment because I'm frustrated that I have to stay at sketch- and study-phase until I can align my schedule with my models' and get a real shoot together. I waaaaant to paaaaint, but that's probably two weeks off at the earliest ):

Thursday, August 28, 2014

IMC 2014 (kinda)

I came back from my third IMC almost two months ago, so I think it's time to admit that this isn't going to be a proper post about it: there's been too much time, and too much distance. What this is a post about, now, is evolution - and how miserable I currently am.

First things first: evolution.

The last thing I finished before the masterclass was a crowning testament to rendering as I approach it, which is to say, fiddly and tediously.

I'm proud of accomplishing what I did, but it was also a breathtaking waste of time and effort. In the nine months (minus some time off here or there) it took me just to paint those mosaic tiles, I could have done so many other paintings. But I went ahead and I did what I did, and I think it was important.

Because what I did at the IMC, fresh from most of a year of toiling over one painting's rendering and tiny detailing, was this:

It's hard to see from that image, but that is a painting of brush strokes. I didn't sit and noodle on one square inch; even the hands were done with care, as opposed to obsessive fiddling.

This was not a conscious change I made in my approach. Something clicked during Greg Manchess' lecture: the first thing I did upon returning to my easel was crop the top off the head in my already-approved final drawing, and it went from there. It honestly sometimes felt like my hand making these marks while I watched, bewildered - and for someone whose technique has always had a lot to do with her control issues, it was terrifying.

My little freakout over new painting method aside ("Jenna, it looks good." "I know, but how am I doing it?"), this is a breakthrough almost on the level of that time I was slapped out of some hardcore internalized self-worth issues from college. This is good and this is important and the paintings I have done since the IMC have been faster and better and more confident than anything I've done before.

Which brings us to the 'being miserable' part, actually.

As most people who'll probably read this know, I work at Starbucks. I was a barista for about two years, and I feel pretty safe in saying that I was a good one. For months, I was turning down a promotion to supervisor: I knew that it would be a huge stress jump, and a huge time commitment, and that it would wrest a lot of my focus from my art. But I wound up taking it shortly before the IMC, because the money was good, I knew I'd be good at it, and I was already doing half of the job anyway... and, again, control issues.

To absolutely no one's surprise, the transition wiped me out. Combined with it being summer - which is not only the three months where I am baseline tired, angry, and generally unwell because of the heat, but also simultaneously Starbucks' busy season and invariably short-staffed - the new responsibility and intensity made it an uphill battle to make art.

I was telling myself comforting things about preferring it to a desk job (true, depending on the day and also which desk job), and how it wouldn't be for too long (hah), and how I was fine, really, everything was going well (no). This worked pretty well, actually, until I went to the IMC.

The thing about that week up in Amherst is that, for me, it strips away everything. There's not really any room for anything but the art. It's hard to describe - it's not like it's a silent monastery of pure art-making, not at all, but even the silliest, booziest night spent hanging out in the dorm common room had an underlying connection to art.

Faced with a week of the life I want distilled into its best parts, all of my little white lies and half-truths about being alright were torn away.

I hate not being an artist in profession as well as in practice. I hate having to choose where to spend what time I'm not at Starbucks - I hate feeling like every time I decide to see a friend or, god forbid, take a day off, I am choosing to not make art. I hate being caught in a grey area between two directions which are not mutually exclusive but cannot both be worked toward at the same time, and I hate feeling like I'm spinning my wheels as a result. I hate how I need every painting to be A Step Forward, and I hate how when I sit back and do a study I feel like I'm wasting time. I hate being too exhausted to make art and then spend the time not making art hating myself.

I hate looking at Starbucks and seeing the looming shadow of a career.

I hate looking at art and feeling the niggling doubt: Maybe it's a mirage. Maybe I've just been fooling myself.

Listen: I'm not looking for reassurances or advice. This is the year that I was accepted into Spectrum, this is the year I sold my first major piece, this is a year of a big technical breakthrough. I know that people like - respond to - my art, and there are those who are just waiting for me to hit it. I know I'm young, that I only just this May hit two years out of school, that I am doing a lot of things right.

I know that there are issues here, and I'm getting help on that front.

I'm also doing what I can to throw myself into art in such a way as to make it impossible for me to withdraw. My SmART School class with Rebecca Guay starts in less than a week, and there's the Society of Illustrators Spectrum exhibit opening and then Art Out Loud the day after, and Illuxcon less than a week later. I have projects for myself lined up, and promotions to do.

I'm not actually drowning - but it sure feels awful all the same.

This fall, I'm going to try to be better about posting here, because writing down what I'm experiencing has been incredibly helpful in the past - and looking back over my journey gives me guideposts to steer by. Even writing this, tonight, helps, and while I still dread tomorrow's 3:30am alarm and eight hours of work and exhaustion, I'm not quite so wrapped up in my anticipatory misery.

And I really am excited to show everyone what I'm doing. That doesn't change, even if the path gets harder.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I know I'm tightly-wound, but it's gotten ridiculous

I've come to the conclusion recently that I need to seriously reassess my work habits.

The whole driving myself into the ground thing is not new or different, and I have, I swear, been making progress with it in the past year or two. I know I say 'I'm going to fix this' every time I scrape myself off the floor after a crash; I go on Facebook and post about how tired I am, how much I hate doing this to myself, and maybe crack a few jokes at my own expense. But I was talking to a friend of mine toward the end of my most recent push, and she said something that really made me pause: "It seems like you're, well, a little too proud of being able to do as much work as you do."

And, you know, it's true. The most common theme I hear in others' description of me - the thing repeated most often when I got into Spectrum - is how much of a hard worker I am. It's something I've been proud of for a long time, especially considering this is a skill I developed over years rather than an innate ability. I still consider it a strength, how hard I work, how much I can take on: I went from mediocre to good fast enough that everyone remarked on it my senior year of college.

I think I'm entitled to being proud, given all of that, but the problem is that some point during those four years of 'working hard', it got twisted up.

My junior year, as I've talked about before, was a really rough time; I overcommitted badly, and was constantly either working or hating myself viciously for not working. It planted the idea that if I wasn't busy, I was doing something wrong. It didn't seem like a bad thing, really: by the second semester of senior year I'd leveled up to a degree I hadn't even thought possible, and I was outputting a finished painting every two and a half to three weeks.

But I graduated, and I crashed. It took me months to claw my way out of being depressed and self-loathing: "I was useless; I was a waste of the potential that teachers and role models said they saw in me," I wrote three months after graduating, looking back on the summer I'd just spent barely making art. I was back on my feet properly that winter, juggling projects and once again pleased (proud) at how hard I was working - and then I crashed again that spring, depressed again, furious at my own failings and lack of progress.

I've repeated this pattern so many times that I've gotten good at compensating for them. I don't get depressed any more, not really - I mostly get exhausted, as I drive myself to the finish line on nothing but grit teeth. I stack projects and deadlines and drive myself through 100+ hour weeks between working at Starbucks and art. I negotiate with myself and compromise in order to 'okay' spending time with friends, or on dates; I have very limited time I'm 'allowed' to watch TV or goof off on the internet.

And reading that paragraph over, I have to admit I'm giving myself some narrowed eyes.

Part of the problem is that I do have a lot of work to do (a long way to go), and only so much time in a week to do it. Part of it is that I spent so long being so aware of how mediocre I was, and something in me will always be running from that, pushing as hard as I can to overcome it. Part of it is that habits are hard to break, and it feels straight-up wrong to not be very busy. Part of it is that I do, actually, work optimally with one painting in-progress on the easel, one drawing in-progress on the paper, and one illustration in thumbnail stage or rolling around in my head.

It's got to change, though. I just hate being tired, and the last downswing was nothing but tired, for two straight months. When MoCCA ended, I was flat-out exhausted and still had to show up at Starbucks for another five days straight... but after two days of just relaxing when I came home, instead of going to my studio, I found myself sort of shocked to discover how refreshed I was feeling. I've spent an entire week and a half since ~*not doing anything*~, and I keep laughing at how much of a revelation it is that, as a result, I'm incredibly rested and relaxed.

Going forward, I still have a lot to do, but I am going to have to put some effort into maintenance and care this time around. If we're talking about time and amount of work, I can't afford these crashes and the aftercare that they require; a little less detachedly, I really need to be less destructive in my work habits.

There is a middle road between not doing enough and driving myself into the ground with overwork - I know this, because I see others walk it. I need to find it for myself, because for all of my advancement, I'm at the point where I don't really benefit from a whip at my heels, or self-flagellation.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Groping after an explanation

I've come to be pretty confident in my artistic voice, but when I was recently asked to go past my favorite joke ("I paint sad flowy ladies.") and the usual followup ("I paint the quiet things: internal drama and subtle emotions of the figures in the stories I love."), I found myself going in rambling, vague circles which boiled down to "????"

So, having put some thought to the question, it is time to think aloud (aka write it down), because wow it is hard to pin down.

How do I put my art into words?

There is a definite theme and direction, I know that much. There's something about pain and beauty and  humanity and femininity, and there it is: but how do I actually verbalize it? It's not a 'something', it's a definite thing, but I dance around locking onto it constantly.

There is beauty to be found in pain, in sorrow and grief, and there's beauty in quiet moments, too. My art is about these intersections, and especially in those things in the context of overlooked narratives within known stories, but it's more than that. So many times, women are subjects told about and acted upon but not explored, even when the stories are technically about them. I keep looking at these isolated, simplified figures through the context of their humanity, the emotion I read in their actions and choices, and celebrate their beauty and strength and tragedy (or attempt to).

There really is something arresting about all the things not said, but implied, by these narratives I find myself drawn to. We know Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds, but why, after all those months? We know Guinevere was unfaithful, but what did she feel for the husband she betrayed? We know the girl without hands forged her path from the great unknown, but from where did the strength come to take herself from those places of danger with such self-possession?

I want to ask these questions, strip from them the gloss of storytelling disassociation, but still make sure that these women are celebrated no less for being reassessed as mere mortals - their untouchable nature is not what holds my interest, but their beauty in the midst of their human struggles and weaknesses.

(I think I'm getting close to finding the right words for my art, but it's still quite rambly. I need to be able to speak both succinctly and in-depth about this, and right now I have neither. I feel like I'm circling the point from a height - I'm no longer doing a haphazard fly-by, but I still need to close the gap.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


This is my comic for MoCCA, minus the cover which is, haha, still being painted. I am hoping that there are enough Lord of the Rings nerds that weekend to justify fourteen pages of I Have Too Many Emotions About a Minor Character, Please Hold.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Evenstar Pages 12-13

I started working on this comic with the easiest image for me - the big dark double-page spread one page from the end. It was the easiest way to get myself into the hatching in a context that would be far more forgiving than, say, anything with figures.

The end result needed a lot of Photoshoppery, but I expected that, since pencil really only goes so dark without going past hatching and into full coverage... and the end result is something I'm pretty damn pleased with!

The raw scan

After Photoshop
I need to go back into the original and take out that weird half-panel around the Evenstar the way I did digitally, so I can present it for sale, but other than that I'm letting them stand as two very separate entities.

Next up to bat: not another Evenstar page, but instead, my Month of Love drawing! Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

And now for something completely different

Stand back, everyone - Jenna is doing a comic.

That's an out of character statement if ever I made one, and it deserves some context. It's simple: one of the best small venues in New York City for selling stuff as an illustrator is MoCCA, but since that stands for 'Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art', this year it's required that every artist tabling have at least one comic to show.

After some (haha, some) initial panic and abortive attempts at writing A Comic, I realized that I was already above and beyond my comfort zone and needed to approach it more intelligently. Instead of a story of my own, which I don't have, or an adaptation of something else, which I would have had to write and design from the ground up, it occurred to me that I already had something I could use: The Lord of the Rings.

[warning for extreme nerdiness and emotions]

On the read-through I did my senior year of college, a small exchange I'd never really paid much attention to jumped out at me:

And Aragon said to Halbarad: 'What is that you bear, kinsman?' For he saw that instead of a spear he bore a tall staff, as it were a standard, but it was close-furled in a black cloth bound about with many thongs. 
'It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell,' answered Halbarad. 'She wrought it in secret, and was long in the making. But she also sends word to you: The days now are short. Either our hope cometh, or all hope's end. Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone!
- Return of the King, Capter Two: The Passing of the Grey Company

It is one of only two direct references to Arwen I can recall between actual her appearances in The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King, and it hit me like a punch to the gut. This scene takes place around two months after the Frodo and his companions set out from Rivendell; the implication is that Arwen has spent that entire time since Aragorn's departure working on his standard, alone, knowing that she will never see him again unless the impossible is achieved. And then she sends it to him. That's the part that gets me, really.

So, here's the comic, in final-thumb form; the text follows, though it's not broken up by page here. As we get closer to April, expect to see some progress shots.

You fell in love once, when the sun was brighter. 
That sun has long since set. But you are the Evenstar: a piercing light in the growing darkness. As the shadows gather and pool, dangerous as deep water, your radiance becomes a beacon. But no matter how bright you shine, it is for nothing if he fails. 
So you take the cold, clear light of the star you are named for; you take the delicate, shining threads of hope that bind you to him. The black of the banner beneath your hands is nothing compared to what rages at your doorstep, but you pierce it with diamonds and truesilver until you have given all you have. 
And then you let it go. 
It goes to him, as you cannot, takes a place of honor beside him, and now you watch the shadows deepen with nothing left to keep them at bay but your own lonely faith. 
But you are the Evenstar, and you shine bright as light fails. You are a beacon. And far away, a banner of blackest night is pierced by stars.