Saturday, August 23, 2014

Day 10: Adventure Time!

Monday, 18 August 2014. The intrepid Comics Studio group jumps the Brunswick Road bus, then the Sydney Road tram, and then ventures along Victoria Street by foot (or, let's be honest, by feet).

To fight for their right to Ty?  To get their Hoe repaired? No, no, and again no.

HERE'S what they're looking for: 309 Victoria Street.

Squishface Studio!

Above: Ben Hutchings, the instigator cartoonist of Squishface, was there to talk to us about the studio. So was co-founder David Blumenstein, whose face you can see, beautifully framed by the crooked arm of the grey-garbed figure in the bottom left of the photo.

Ben tells us, "Be a cartoonist." The hours are good, and if you can find a regular paying gig like he's been able to, then that leaves you time to make the comics and animations and music that you love doing. Then you can set up an open studio like Squishface with a group of cartoonist friends, put your work up on the walls,

and when Andreas and Jac turn up, they'll take pictures of it. 

I don't remember this part of the excursion. Maybe this is the white wormhole in space that we travelled through to get to the city, where we walked up Lonsdale Street in the lightly drifting rain and then travelled in instalments up the 9-people-at-a-time lift to... the Eisner Award winning... All Star Comics!

Above, Mitchell Davies, who co-founded All Star with business partner Troy Varker, describes what they were setting out to achieve with the shop: a friendly and welcoming place where the people behind the counter are interested in the customers and are keen to talk with them about favourite titles, artists, and the art of comics. I reckon they have created a great space for comics in Melbourne, and they are very supportive of local creators too. He talked as well about the Eisner Award win for Retailing received during the recent San Diego Comic Con, and about the Free Comic Book Day events held at the shop and in surrounding alleyways (first weekend of May). I even got to find out that the All Star star is called a nautical star. Never knew that.

Also I didn't know that they've started up an all-women's comics reading group, and it's on the book of faces, here.


Then some lunch (thanks to guides Chloe and Kallista) and then winding our way through the modern arcades of high capitalism (Emporium), then walking through the old Royal Arcade and the maze of lanes to Degraves Street, and then down, down down, to:

Who knew that Bernard had so much grey hair at the back of his head?  Everyone, probably, except Bernard...
And there's Nicole and Matt and JC outside Sticky. Ah, Jean-Christophe! You are now en route back home to France!  I'll miss your calm ways , and your drawing style - I hope you get to make some bandes dessinees of your own back at home...

And there's Luke Sinclair, up at the counter, giving us the Sticky story. They've had funding, from time to time, but these days they run as a real shop, existing on the 20% of cover price that they get off each zine that they sell there.

People sat, people typed.

Luke is a zinester himself, maker and publisher of the immortal YOU zine. Pick it up. It's free. And it's a letter to YOU.

We milled.

We marvelled.

And finally, we left Sticky and we moved a little further under the underpass and made our way up onto Platform 1 of Flinders Street Station and completed our trifecta of public transport. (It was a little bit Platform 9 and 3/4)  We had visited three of the sacred sites of comics in Melbourne. We had met the people who had started those places, and they were keen to talk to us and encourage us to participate in the creation of comics and zines in Melbourne. 

Back at school, after a long day of comics culture immersion, students were given the task to depict our excursion in a four panel strip. And they did:

*photos in this post by Travis McKenzie and his camera*

Thursday, August 21, 2014

closing the gap

One of the biggest issues an artist has in creating their work is the gap between what they want to make, and what they see on the page when they start to sketch.

Ira Glass calls this the 'creative gap'

THE GAP by Ira Glass

If you don't have time for the video, there is a nice poster that sums the advice up too.

This is the gap we all must face as creators, but luckily there is help out there to bridge it. If you sit around hoping divine intervention will do it for you, you're going to have a bad time. Instead, we have google.

If I wanted to draw something complex, say a helicopter, for example, I might do something like this...

That's all well and good if my intention was to make a comic 'icon' of a helicopter, but what if my purpose was to make something closer to reality? In that case I have a wider gap to bridge...

I could get an image from google image search.

And find things like this....

And if i'm lucky, it might be exactly what i'm looking for, in which case, I can trace it or copy it into my work. But comics are more complex than a one-off image. Many comics need the same object or location repeated many times from many different angles. That image above is great, but limits me to just one view. It would take a lot of searching and luck to get a range of views of the exact same helicopter... Luckily, google image search is not our only tool.

Google Sketchup is a free 3D modeling tool, for PC or Mac. In it you can make just about anything, but what we need is even easier.

When you open the program, there is a 'get models' button that will take you to an online warehouse of existing models.

Search for what you want and when you have found a likely model, you select 'no' when it asks if you want to load directly into sketchup. This will download the model file, and then you can open it up directly.

Now it's open, you can see how the model looks...

But for our purposes, lets change the rendering (the way it looks) to make it easier to copy.

First go and set the face style to monochrome.

Now set the edge style to 'edges'

Now your model looks like this... much easier to see the lines and shadows. Play with the 'orbit tool' and rotate around your model to get an angle you like.

Using the 'pan' tool (it looks like a hand) you can move the view to center the model.

And the 'zoom' tool (looks like a magnifying glass) can get your view closer or further away

Now we can go to 'file' and 'export' to save a 2d image of your view.

 These image references can be inserted into word and re-sized to match your intended panel size for your comic. Here is a good example from Matt, who found some building images as well as some helicopter models for his comic.

Once in word, this file can be printed, then you can trace or copy the relevant bits into your panels.

Doing this may seem like cheating, but it is the way artists have worked since antiquity.

This is an example of a 'camera obscura' which was a special room that projected a view onto a large piece of paper pinned to a wall for an artist to copy. This would then become the 'cartoon' from which they made their final artwork.

Closing the gap is the aim, use whatever tool you can to do so.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Day 7 continued. Inking the scene and our first zine.

After Bernard's discussion on using local landscapes in his work, it was time for the students to have a go.

We went out to the yard, and with a paper frame as a composition guide, the students drew three panels.

#1 was a longshot

#2 was a mid shot, and #3 a close up

Back in the class it was time to get inking. The next task was to take a page from an existing comic. Each student was given a different page, and had to trace the outlines of the panel layout, as well as ink in one of the panels.

But this was just the beginning! The next job was to complete the narrative and fill in the panels that lead up to and continued on from the one they had inked.

All these images were then scanned and collated....

But even that's not all.

With a front cover designed by Aden

Some front matter text inked in by Flick

And some concluding acknowledgements from Liam

And of course a concluding image from Speed

We have a finished Zine....

All students took home a copy, and everyone agreed it wasn't bad for a day's work.