30 January 2009

How strangers can change your life.

In 1995, I (as I've probably gone on about at great length here somewhere) lived in the Albert hotel for about 8 months with an Unbelievable, Exemplary gang of people. One of them specifically proved a constant inspiration, who I felt I observed a bit from afar, as I cartwheeled through that year doing a great many drugs, eating a great many chocolate truffles, climbing a great many trees (and cleverly losing my passport for six months in the process), and reading a great many books. 
This person had come to London from Italy, to pursue an illustration career, clean and simple. And here she lived, amongst at least a dozen different sorts of english-speaking accents, on a shoestring budget minus the shoe, in these Less-Than-Satisfactory quarters with a cast of characters and daily dramas that would make Coronation Street look like a birthday party. And just quietly kept going. She put up tin foil stars, and painted on the walls of the basement, and is literally one of the inadvertent forces behind a few of my major life decisions. So inspiring. 
It's amazing how observing a near stranger can affect ones own decisions in a positive fashion. I don't notice this often in myself; I mostly come by my resolutions via force of deduction; that is, I look out at the world daily and say "nope, not doing that, nope, that's not for me." Etc. etc. 
To clarify: I see amazing people doing amazing things all the time, but predominantly their circumstance or style (so to speak) is quite different from mine and it's hard to make a possible corelation.

Yesterday, through another of this sublime group of friends, I was sent her website link, and I couldn't wait to verify, and I emailed to see if it was her, AND IT WAS!!! IT WAS.



Won't SOMEBODY tell me the proper etiquette for naming friends on blogs? Do I go back to numeric code names of three blogs ago? C'est quoi le repons?

28 January 2009

And before I sign off for the evening.

I have been linked to a Lovely Blog, and wanted to reciprocate, here in this posting for the moment, 'til I get it together to make a blog-link list. Quiver, it is called. Go forth!

27 January 2009

And in the news, while I'm there.

Octuplets. Born in California, alive, and doing fine as of today. EIGHT KIDS, six boys, two girls, born one after the other, each weighing in between 1 and 2 lbs, and in a labour that totalled five minutes. FIVE. The doctors had thought there were only seven in there. What a fiesta. They were probably like, "Okay, it's time! Everybody out of the garden!", and off they went.

Facebook status. Abgelenkt. A morning dialogue.

Stef abge-lenk-t. Constantly abgelenkt. So. Excellent.

SD at 09:50, on 27 January.

ASH at 09:54, on 27 January.
what SD said.

Stef Lenk at 09:55, on 27 January.
ABGELENKT: (well, abgelenkt werden) to be sidetracked. (as well as about a thousand other related side meanings in german) As i said. Perfect. I cannot take credit for making the connection though.*

Stef Lenk at 09:58, on 27 January.
It's all german dictionary and exercise books, (well, and drawing) this little corner of the world. All hail winter hibernatory activity!

ASH at 10:00, on 27 January.
OH of course!

SD at 10:04, on 27 January.
what ASH said.

ASH at 10:06, on 27 January.
What I said.

Stef Lenk at 10:17, on 27 January.
Harumph. What I said. I'm now going to abgelenk from these status comments. 'Coz it's in my very nature.

Stef Lenk at 10:17, on 27 January.
so there.

ASH at 10:17, on 27 January.
what you said.

SD at 10:23, on 27 January.
what they said.

JPR at 10:31, on 27 January.
What did I say?

EG at 10:37, on 27 January.
Ditto huh

Stef Lenk at 10:41, on 27 January.
LOOK. All I was saying, when all of this started...ABGELENKT. Perpetually abgelenkt. Thank you all.

SD at 10:44, on 27 January.
this thread is abgesteflenkting me.

Stef Lenk at 10:52, on 27 January.
YOU!!! I'll have you know I've been abstefgelenkt for 35 YEARS. It's a Tainted bloody life, my friend.

* I would like to credit B for initially pointing out the fortuitous german word, in the subject heading of an email. Would that my german was adept enough to have called it to mind!


What was it...a week ago? A very old friend (as in, old-from-times-gone-by, not OLD, found me on facebook, at the same time as she found an old (again, see above) crowd of exemplary human beings I spent nearly a year in London/Europe with, like, 14 (!) years ago. The online reunion has filled me with GLEE. (Members' current geographic locations include Australia, Dresden, Lübeck, South Africa, and some place I don't even know in the middle-east).

For one prone to rampant bouts of nostalgia, I have been literally agog with excitement. I was trying to remind myself today to stay focussed on artwork (as opposed to succumbing to said nostalgia, which can literally consume hours of my life), and reminding myself not to digress from choices I've made that have led me here, (travel-wise, work-wise, art-wise).
THEN, today, I received an order from South Africa for two of my books, from the aforementioned lovely friend (known here most affectionately as E), AND an email asking if I mightn't possibly want to do a show in Berlin this summer, from another member of the gang (I shall write B, oh the endless question of bloggy etiquette in naming people, but shall link to his website anyhow, as his artwork is friggin' amazing)

White the latter notion is only on very outer perimeters of possibility, it is nonetheless making me Lose.My.Mind with excitement. And, more likely and JUST as exciting is talk of a tiny reunion of a few selected of our gang this summer in Germany, and a pilgrimage to a fantastic museum in Hamburg: Helium Cowboy

And this, dear reader(s), reassured me in a way I haven't felt in such a very long time, that past and present and future really do, somehow, even in the smallest ways, and some of them very unexpected, work together. Love it.

24 January 2009

Siamese spinach.


Oh, and Oprah?

24 days. Still no clothes on my bedroom floor. Suck my left one, deary.

Yesterday's favourite headline.


And here I worry about living a useless life, accomplishing nothing, and dying alone.

microwave etiquette.

I do not own a microwave. I do not know how to use them, nor do I like the generic "I-was-once-good-food-that-has-just-been-reheated-and-now-smells-the-same-as-once-good-now-defunct-through-reheating-food-so-help-my-digestion-indeed."

HOWEVER. I had leftover chili yesterday, and couldn't stomach the idea of the food court for anything. "Food Court". Harumph. These places are antitheses of courting, healthy living, or kind sentiment of any sort.

Determined to overcome my bias, I approached the lunch room. (Which I may say is also the location of the water cooler, so promised at least the potential of some nutritive gossip. By the end of the day, however, I tallied an hour and 10 minutes of sundry gossip (in varying places) about Ikea furniture, exemplary sofas, and bedframe design. Which I, of course, had nothing to contribute to.)

A good five minutes later a fellow employee (a stranger, of course) came upon me staring at the microwave in consternation. I realized that this wouldn't do. I had to act, and act fast, and like I knew what I was doing, or both chili and self-esteem might be lost forever.
I put the bowl in, pushed some buttons, and stepped back, exuding an air of inpenetrable confidence. Or so I thought.
I looked over at his meal, churning away merrily in the microwave opposite.
"Do you put a paper towel over the bowl?" I asked, making to sound like this was some sort of cultural choice of his, that I had already tried many a time and then deemed out of chic, given my hip modern appearance.

"Well, it's only proper etiquette" he said. "But I wouldn't want to tell you what to do!"

Microwave etiquette, ladies and gentlemen. Microwave etiquette.

23 January 2009

The Awful German Language

By Mark Twain, read today in its entirety, and highly enjoyable. Consider the following snippits, so bitterly true:

Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum-book. In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print -- I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:
Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
She has gone to the kitchen.
Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?
It has gone to the opera.

....and also this (on the subject of the length of selected german words...

These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper at any time and see them marching majestically across the page -- and if he has any imagination he can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to the meekest subject. I take a great interest in these curiosities. Whenever I come across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum. In this way I have made quite a valuable collection. When I get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here are some specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:


Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape -- but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it, or tunnel through it. So he resorts to the dictionary for help, but there is no help there. The dictionary must draw the line somewhere -- so it leaves this sort of words out. And it is right, because these long things are hardly legitimate words, but are rather combinations of words, and the inventor of them ought to have been killed.

22 January 2009

Pondering the known works of Theodore Geisel, and childhood matter(s) in general.

A while back a friend of mine showed me a book of his entitled "The Secret Art of Doctor Seuss*", comprising drawings, some of a questionable nature, done by the infamous childrens' book author. 
This crossed my mind today, for no particular reason, and I wondered at the many illustrators pigeonholed into doing childrens' books, merely because no categories for illustrated "adult" books as yet really exist, 'xcept for the thinly veiled T and A bullshit that passes for mainstream comics, and is of course revered by oversized children calling themselves adults everywhere.

So Theodore Giesel, of course exceptionally gifted in childrens' work, but likely with alot more on his mind than such simple things, came to be known exclusively in this manner.
And then he dies, and then one day people find his real drawings, or his unpublished drawings (is there any difference?) and say, "Hey, secretly Dr. Seuss was a pervert!" when really, secretly, Theodore Giesel was merely an adult.

To be fair, a return to childhood subject matter (as witnessed firsthand upon my recent re-read of The Wind in the Willows just last week, is a return to a time of unadulterated optimism. Most kids (especially in this part of the world) don't know enough to be cynical at their age the way adults are.
They also don't know how to define loneliness, so when they feel it, they are able to move past it with relative ease.

*(Seuss means 'cute' in german, by the way, and yes, he was german.)

20 January 2009


Design vs. Creation.

There's designing something, and there's creating something, and people frequently seem to morph the two together, or expect the latter to be a free accessory to the former. I had never myself made this distinction before, but it has happened so so often, and there must be a way of kindly distinguishing the two?

19 January 2009

Und jetzt

fangt es wieder an!*

(*corrected. Amazing what a good nights' sleep will do)


PLEASE won't someone rich find me and marry me and purchase THIS for us for my honeymoon.
Or yes, S, a timeshare. Would that it were possible. Even vaguely possible.
Oh God. It's killing me. Really literally killing me.
Be still my ever-beating Withnail & I loving heart.

Kindness on a Monday morning.

Some clever thing has put a clock in the window of their basement apartment, facing outwards, towards the bus stop just outside their door.

18 January 2009

We interrupt this blog for a bit of Proust-inspired nostalgia.

I first began reading The Remembrance of Things Past in 1992, in the excessively moss green and floral drawing room of one Patricia Neatrour, retired dancer with the (British) Royal Ballet. I was 19, (voluntarily) bald, hopelessly awkward, and just as happy to sit at her home in the evenings (I rented a room in her flat for eight months) and read books, will Pat watched Snooker and did the crossword, and waxed nostalgic about that night so many years ago, when she finished a dance performance and was introduced to Prince Charles in his special box. (There was a photo of it over the fireplace mantel. His ears really are that big.)

Pat lived at Portman Mansions, across from Baker Street, and for some reason I found it ludicrously pleasing to be so close to 221b, despite the fact that it never really housed Mister Holmes, and Jeremy Brett in fact conducted his last interview only steps away, before dying some time later, much to my horror. 
But Pat. Yes. Her eyeballs were remarkably protuberant, her wardrobe invariably Marks and Spencer, and her underthings frequently hung on some wooden contraption over the kitchen table. 
The man who rented the room next to mine was Kevin, I believe, and he was very "shy" said Pat (read: gay). We never saw much of him, but he did have a fondness for potato salad. And he had marvellously orange hair.
During the days I worked at a record shop in Soho, that had previously been an Anne Summers shop, or so we discovered when cleaning out drawers and finding all manner of unmentionable things not saleable by a shop of our repute. My best (only) friend was my co-worker, one Pippa Hinge from Reading, die-hard Lloyd Cole fan, bless her, who had the most gorgeous olivey complexion that I was constantly jealous of. She could not figure out why, telling me of the time (when she was little) when her mum had come home to find Pippa with her head in the freezer. When asked to explain herself, Pippa burst into tears, and said that if white people could lie in the heat and get brown, why couldn't she lie in the cold and get white?
In general though, there were far less memorable moments then I like to suppose about those eight months. However. There was one funny time, just after new years, when I had freshly returned from visiting a friend in Norwich for Christmas, upon which occasion we listened to a great deal of Leonard Cohen and shaved my head in the bathtub while a one-legged cat (no joke) looked on. 
Back in London and at work, I got sent out to get change at the video arcade, with a 50 pound note. I went to the back, put it in the change machine, and made to leave with the booty: bags and bags of pound coins. Well. I got chased out by security, and only realized afterwards what I must have looked like with a swedish military jacket, docks, and a shaved head. And a non-english accent. 
He wouldn't let me leave the arcade, convinced I had rigged the machine somehow. Finally he escorted me back to my shop to have my story verified, and barred me from the arcade for good as a ne'er-do-well.
I'm pretty sure he didn't call me a ne'er-do-well, but what's a gratuitously nostalgic posting without a term like that, really.

Thank you for your forbearance, we now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Proust on his deathbed, as photographed by Man Ray, as drawn by stef lenk.

Real life to fairy tale.

Due to a fortuitous error which saw an email to Coco waylaid to the illustrious N at the Brick offices, I was sent this background (as cited on Wiki, i think), which inspired Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes.
I love it. I love also the thought that such old old fairy tales have their origins in real life incident, which is evidence of just how much life has gone on, and what it has resulted in, even so long ago.
But to the origin of The Red Shoes:
Andersen explained the origins of the story in an incident he witnessed as a small child. By his report, his father was sent a piece of red silk by a rich lady customer, to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. Using red leather along with the silk, he worked very carefully on the shoes, only to have the rich lady tell him they were trash. She said he had done nothing but spoil her silk. "In that case," he said, "I may as well spoil my leather too," and he cut up the shoes in front of her.

17 January 2009

Temperance. Even with the "Draw Cuter Things" campaign.

Things of great significance that I woke up thinking about.

I don't usually wake up with pleasant and harmless thoughts running through my head in the morning. I have Wind in the Willows to thank for this, no doubt.  
So, without further ado: Things I thought about this morning that were rather lovely, thank you very much:
1. My pilgrimage to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993 to see the original EH Sheperd drawings for Winnie the Pooh. I was allowed to have a pencil and paper with me to take notes (? Like there were notes to be taken that would have been sufficient enough to leave with any real sense of what I was seeing there). I was given white gloves to handle the drawings as well, and they were Sublime.

2. My godmother, who took care of me before and after school when I was little, and who will forever and eternally call to mind the Britishly-anthemic intro to the BBC radio news, complete with the four beeps at the end, before the newscaster begins. And also english muffins with butter, first thing in the morning.

(My mum told me last night that 'Del (said godmother) had come to visit some weeks ago. She has been having worsening hearing problems over the years, so my mum put some headphones on her that were hooked up to the computer, and played her Symphonic Bach, one of their mutual favourites, and for whatever reason, 'Del was able to hear it fully for the first time in forever, and the look on her face I am told was of unparalleled Glee. Love it. In fact, am listening to symphonic Bach in empathy, this very morning.)

3. This strange place which I dream about with fascinating frequency (and did so again last night), always in a different context, and for no particular reason that I know of. It always seems to have "London" as an undertitle (were dreams to have undertitles) but isn't actually any place I know of in London, and so serves as some generic fantastical european place of old buildings and narrow streets and convoluted urban corridors of historical aesthetic, which I of course deem London-esque, 'coz that's just what I do. It's a bit inscrutable as cranial tendencies go, as it's almost like some irrelevant set change. Nothing particularly Londoney ever happens in said place/dream; indeed the setting rarely has any relevance at all. 
Except of course that it's extraordinarily comforting and nice-looking.

16 January 2009

Wind and the Willows, and Dear Old EH.

Today I decided to revisit this Amazing piece of Literature. My primary reason was to see if it was as glowingly warm and sweet and good as I remembered it (It was. In the best of ways. Perfect for January), and to ponder possibly illustrating a few choice portraits of Ratty, Mole and Toad, as part of my "draw cuter things" campaign.
An errant googling upon the completion of said book informed me that there is in fact an illustrated version by one EH Sheperd. Miracles will Never Ever cease, I thought, as I stared somewhat unimpressedly at my copy, whose illustrations are stiff and mundane, and no doubt by a man named Bruce, or some such nominal blight. 
Bless you EH Sheperd, BLESS YOU. (And your daughter Mary (yes, Mary), who illustrated the Mary Poppins books, of course.)
Although, like I need another reminder that my pencil-illary activities really are not adding anything significant to this planet.

This book.

Purchased yesterday in a fit of uncontrollable excess, makes me put down my pencil and weep. Literally. 
Jesus. Is there any point, really? 
I am perhaps better suited to accounting, anyhow.

(Don't judge it by its cover. Go find it. Really. The cover is okay, but it's the drawings inside that count, not the digital colouring stuff.)

Fuck you Oprah.

So around New Years I read this article in the New York Times about Oprah falling off the weight wagon again, and her saying that people rarely to never change their ways significantly, so new years resolutions are superfluous, most of them expiring within a couple of days.
I have two bad habits, one of which is leaving my clothes on my bedroom floor. Every year I lament this and resolve to do it no longer. Same goes this year.
Contrary to previous years where said habit has indeed reappeared some days after the new year wanes, I now find myself thinking, every time I drop a sock to my inconsolable carpet, about Oprah and her cynical observations. 
Every time.
And I have now gone 16 wonderful days with a floor unfettered by underwear or belt buckle. 
So really perhaps this posting should be called "Thank you, Oprah", although she isn't really who I want to be thinking about when I change into my pajamas at night.

No electricity and no heat.

For 15 hours and counting, and I had a weird moment, stepping out of my tepid shower this morning, of feeling like I've turned inside out.

14 January 2009

My job at the big red building

is often, alas, very mundane. And not often do I get to do something that requires large (or sometimes any) amounts of technical photoshop skill. Though today, I was asked to do a double cel, showing Obama in real life, proceeded by a depiction of him on the cover of a special edition Spider Man comic (which I want, by the way.) The idea was to get as close to an identical IRL picture of him as possible, so that the clever news techies could morph the second on top of the first as Mister Mansbridge informs the world of this history-making comic book.
The fact that I managed to to track down said close-to identical picture of him fills me with GLEE, (original pictured here, UNcropped)

and follow this by my genius photoshop work in building the photo out, etc, at breakneck speed (just LOOK at that cufflink. And extended suitage. LOOK AT IT! Okay, so it's not That extensive, but if you see one cel morphed into the other, it really does look rather impressive. No, really.) Anyhow, suffer me, won't you, my glimmering moment of Geeky Photoshop pride.

Not to mention one of the first moments of genuinely having FUN at my job, even though it is the news, so frequently a recipe for incumbent despair and loathing. (insert gratuitous moan here)

Whatever to Peter Mansbridge, just LOOK at those graphics.

(Oh, and for the illustrator who drew the cover, his ear is all wrong.)

(Just saying.)

(Oh, and for those of you wondering, Spidey is asking Obama: "Hey if you get to be on my cover, do I get to be on the dollar bill?")


update: Okay, so, looking at this again, it's hardly that exciting, photoshop-wise or image-wise. But it's Obama, so I forgive me. And it beats the lemon on wheels car I had to build later on that evening for an item on used vehicles.

On self-publishing: an extensive discourse.

So, one of the requests from the Xeric foundation upon granting me my...erm...grant, was a testimonial on the ins-and-outs of self-publishing. I started writing it last year, and revisited it at last, ironically close on the heels of the fact that I no longer want to self-publish. That is, I feel like I've reached a ceiling on what I'm going to learn from it, and I think my time should now be focused on different avenues of publication (read: OTHER people publishing, ME creating.) So here's hoping.
In the meanwhile, though, if anyone happens on this blog via the Xeric site, or my website, who might have an interest in self-publishing, or how I self-published my books (that is, what's involved) well, here it is. I'm proud, actually (which is rare). Writing this summation made me realize just how much there is to learn, and just how much work I've done. And also, the realization that I've been involved in most to all aspects of book publishing (albeit on a microscopic scale), gives me a wonderful sense of holistic satisfaction.

For those of you here who are friends of mine, the following will probably be very long and boring. So you've been warned. Feel free to skip ahead to the next posting as well...

The Xeric inspired/stef lenk construed Discourse on Self Publishing. 
In Many (many) Parts.

Someone wrote in another Xeric testimonial that you should not attempt self-publishing and all of this business unless you have no choice. This is really true. It's a tonne of work, there's no money in it, and trying to put comic books out there for public consumption is another full-time job on top of doing the actual (creative) work. I have tried to get rid of my bookish compunctions from every possible angle. I talked emptily about potential book projects for years. I took a course in book publishing so I could make other peoples' books. I went to art school to learn how to make stuff to put into books. I've read a million books looking for one that hasn't been written yet. And yet all of this has still brought me here. 
These days, I pay my rent through work in book/magazine publishing/design, I draw obsessively, and I still have many many unfinished book projects. But the more of your own work you do the more focused you become, and the easier it gets, at least to be confident enough to start a project, see it through, and learn a thing or two about it and yourself in the process.
For those of you up for it, self-publishing is a full-time job, which I think can lead to great things of many sorts. Here are some of the things you'll need to think about.

Writing/storyboarding/drawing the book (for me, this reigns in at app. 200-250 hours per book- including storyboarding, reference material, final drawings, and tonnes of mistakes/second/third/fouth tries) 

Don't quit it. No one else does and survives (well). Freelancing is an ideal complement to self-publishing ventures, but the stress (and the effect it has on doing your artwork) shouldn't be underestimated either. Be nice to yourself along the way.
If you can stockpile cash and then take time off, do so. If you can marry rich, that too is a good option. If you are already rich, you must email me so we can discuss this further and in great detail.

Get rid of it.

If you are waiting to start your project until you have a new MacBookPro or a fully equipped studio space in NY's East Village, don't. I know a few people who spend alot of time collecting toys and very little time actually using them. This is unfortunate. Use whatever you can get/whoever will let you. Preparation is the worst form of procrastination.

NOT helpful. Inevitable, but NOT helpful. Try to override these thoughts with great expedience and fervour.

If you know anyone with this skill who will be willing to help you, you have struck gold. Honestly. Having an editor=Creative GOLD. Allow them to criticize, Listen to the criticism, Act on the criticism.

Books are offset-printed (should you be choosing this format) in 16-page increments called signatures. This is due to the folding process necessary to make sure all pages have a reverse-side, and can therefore be efficiently bound/stapled, etc. If you have decided to make a book that is, say, 18 pages, you must be prepared to pay for 24 pages, and have a bunch of blanks. 1/2 sigs are a possibility, which means you can have 20 pages (the magic number is 4 in folding pages) but you will likely still have to pay for 24 pages and they will be trimmed after printing, which wastes both paper and money. Obviously 16 pages/24/32 are all magic increments.
If you know a bit more about your printers, such as how large their press-beds are and what the max size of paper they take, there are ways to cut down costs even more. My books are just slightly smaller than conventional ash-can size; this so they get printed on one sheet and reverse on the other side to create two books per sheet. (the process if called print-and-tumble) This cuts down HUGELY on costs.
Colour is more expensive than b/w. To print in colour, the printers have to make four plates for each page and ink colour (one for cyan, one for magenta, one for yellow, and one for black, which are the four staple inks in colour printing. This might be evident to any of you who have home printers with separate cartridges in your inkjets) The pages of your book then have to be run through the press four times (one for each plate) which ups your man-hours for the job. And there is ever a hassle with proofing and colour correction which is much trickier, I've found, than b/w.
So if you are printing in colour, be prepared for at least double if not quadruple the cost quoted for a b/w project.
Paper stock is an issue. Coated paper is the shiny stuff, where ink sits on top of the page and looks shiny and lovely. Like most magazines. Newsprint is the other end of the spectrum. Like newspapers, it's thin, ink soaks in and dulls, but is cheap cheap Cheap.
Your printing costs will break down (or at least mine do) into three: paper, print, and bind. Bind, the third of these, is stapling (called saddle-stitch) or perfect binding (glued together, which is most trade paperbacks). If there is any way you can handle any of this stuff yourself, you will cut down on billable-man-hours there.
Pre-press/ process-wise: I try to avoid tweeking in photoshop all together, but do find that I need to do a bit to make all pages consistent in terms of levels/gray-scale tones, etc. This takes time and some photoshop skills, or at least basic knowledge of the program. Or someone who can help.

For gods' sakes read up on "bleeds" if you've never published before, and intend to have artwork that reaches (past) the edges of your book. The amount of reworking and redrawing I've had to do because I didn't have properly trimmable edges has been highly frustrating. (This will not really apply to artists working in panels with white edges, btw, leaving white borders is another simple solution to bleed/trim problems.)

These can vary of course, but mine cost $1200 for a print run of 350-500, keeping in mind they are 16 pages each (plus cover) and full-colour. (see pre-press for more info on this) 
You CAN opt for photocopy/zine-style, but just know that these days desktop publishing is ubiquitous and the standards are getting ever higher, so it's harder to grab peoples' attention with the cheap photocopy format, except for a very specific niche market. In the end, the more seriously you invest in your work, the more seriously your potential audience will invest in it.
Screenprinting, letterpress, are other options, and beautiful ones; printmaking is, however, a separate affair. 

There are a tonne of them, that vary in cost/efficiency. If this is your first book, do as many as humanly possible. At book fairs you get to keep all profits from book sales, but this occasionally at the price of malevolent glares by bargain hunters who can't fathom why you would charge $8 for what could be construed as a rather elaborate looking brochure. Many people will not understand. Be prepared for this. The people around you also selling books WILL understand. Love and respect them accordingly.
A couple of years down the road you can start doing a cost/benefit analysis of which to do/which fairs to skip. The experience is fantastic for making a niche for yourself in the comics community, meeting publishers, having your work evaluated. The people are AWESOME. But again, you never sell quite as many books as you had hoped, and the prep work shouldn't be underestimated. Tables also cost money, if you can find someone to split the cost with, by all means do so.
Some of the book fairs/comicons I've done/know of.
Toronto Comic Arts Festival
SpeakEasy Comics night (Toronto)
OCAD Book Arts Fair (Toronto)
Word on the Street (Toronto)
Canzine (Toronto)
Expozine (Montreal)
Wayzgoose book arts fair (Grimsby, Ontario)
SPX (Washington DC)
MoCCA (New York)
BD Angoulême (the MOTHER of all festivals, and the best Best BEST one out there EVER! A DREAM! Comic exhibits in the town church. No joke. Of course, not to be attempted unless you are planning a vacation in France already, you speak at least basic french, and can plan way ahead of time so you can get cheap place to stay etc, and have alot of extra money, or a very liberal credit card.
Book fair math is always helpful if you are feeling discouraged about money. After every book fair my friends/fellow book-makers sit back and evaluate: "This time I made back the cost of the bus ticket to get here!" "This time I made back travel AND the cost of the table!", "This time I spent every penny on other books, but Christs' toes, LOOK AT THIS STUFF!"
Consider postage/shipping costs if you are doing book fairs outside of your own country. Bringing them over the border could be questionable at customs, so this is an extra cost/inconvenience.

Consider ETSY, it's free and awesome, and you can direct anyone you want there. They sell your books, and take a nominal fee for it. There is a tonne of stuff up there though, so drawing attention to your page can be another assignment in and of itself. Your own website is a great help (but building one is a challenge); blogs also work (blogger or wordpress are the most popular and the former is the easiest to use/no website skills necessary) 
Nothing online will be too too helpful, however, unless you have a way of driving traffic to the site. Facebook/MySpace can be helpful publicity, but to get beyond your immediate circle of friends you will need other tactics. 

If you have a knack for design/some basic skills in CS and/or Quark, it will be of great help in this venture, as you can make posters, postcards, etc to give out. People always want free stuff, so anything you can give them to take away/remind you of their work, Awesome. Websites (as stated above) will save a tonne of postage costs (in terms of submissions) and give people immediate access to your work. Associated costs should be factored in: printer ink cartridges; labels; book stands/table signage, as well as promo postcards and business cards.

You can do as much or as little as you want, with results accordingly. Once you've self-published a few things you will want to have built a bigger fan-base than your close friends, or the cost/momentum is going to be harder to sustain. Consider a mailing list, letting people sign up for it and sending out announcements when you have new book/events. Also put together press releases and send them to the weeklies/comic blogs/ etc. in advance of your official launch. (Double check the timing on this, it varies with each publication)

Personally, I find that accounting makes me feel like a fat man going uphill on a children's bicycle. DIY distribution, inventory and selling books on consignment, however, makes me feel like a fat man with no legs running a 200-metre dash, rife with hurdles and a full bladder. But once you get the hang of it all it's strangely edifying, and a great peephole into the world of business that will inevitably surround you the deeper into publishing your books you get.
Consignment is not a huge way to recoup costs, but it is the best way to have your books available/visible on a day-by-day basis. Check out bookstores in your area, specifically ones that sell small-press stuff, and offer books on consignment of course. Typically for a 40/50% take, these shops will stock your books and you play your own distributor, stopping by occasionally to restock/get paid for any sales. 
Be aware of the profit ("profit") margin: Here's the math on one of my typical consignment books:
8$=cost price per book
print run cost=$1200 therefore unit price per book= $3.42
consignment fee=40% of the purchase price (another $3.20), 
profit=a resounding $1.38 per book. 
When approaching stores try to accept that your books will possibly be tucked into a milk-crate on a back shelf somewhere, where ideally they will be accidentally found by a customer hoping for a cheap score in a carefully hidden smut section. This is, alas, how it works. But you get to know book-store owners (who are Awesome), you get to put your books in the company of all the stuff you read yourself (Awesome and Gratifying), and you are broadcasting to the world with increasing dedication that you are not just drawing these things for yourself, but you are searching for an audience (Yes!).
Also, check in frequently. ESPECIALLY if your book has been reviewed, written about, or excerpted. No one is ever going to love your work as much as you are, so you have to take care of it, even once it's left home. Salespeople/bookshop proprietors have bigger distribution/inventory issues to sort out and rarely to never keep up with their consignment. There is also so much consignment material in any given bookshop , that books are all usually in great disarray. Make sure your work hasn't been lost, trampled, or moved to the staff washroom for reading material, or worse.

Eventually the charm of zooming around on a bicycle to stores throughout the city so they can sell 4 or 5 of your books every six months will wear off, and you will have a wall of unsold books cluttering up your home. 
Distribution is a good idea. There are many people who can help with this. At this point, I am not one of them: I am still investigating what the possibilities are out there. It seems like having work accepted to comic distributors is no small accomplishment. And there are fees. And unsold books shredded. And such. Be warned.

Writing grants is another job/financing possibility for this whole process. The more applications you write, the clearer your project ideas and focus will be. It's a great exercise, and also a humbling one. Don't be discouraged if you don't get one. Collect rejection letters. And keep writing them. It is so valuable to teach yourself to explain what you are doing to complete strangers. I have yet to master it. And there is luck involved.
Submissions, press-releases, and queries (to publishers) are also really helpful in honing your ideas and evaluating which ones are worth seeing through to completion.


Google comic books/journals, read the specs, submit your work. All attention is helpful. Tell/show anyone who will listen. And be thankful when they do.


Probably at some point you will get tired of being a one-(wo)man band with all this self-publishing. Submit excerpts for consideration to magazines, publishers etc. Best way to figure out who to submit to is to look at your own bookshelf. If you like reading them and the work they publish resonates with yours, chances are you have found a good publisher/venue for your stuff.

I don't suggest skipping the self-publishing part. There is no better way to gain respect for the people you will be working with in the future. It's a tonne of work, but there's something fascinating and holistic about the process, you're actually involved with your books from the very beginning to the very end (their sale). No part of publishing is easy, whether it be publicity, marketing, editing, or sales, and getting high and mighty about your artwork with the people who are trying to help you put it out there is just lame. 


Eloping to Africa, courtesy of Harpers Weekly

A six-year-old boy and a five-year-old-girl were detained in Germany, on a train to the airport; they explained to police that they planned to fly to Africa to be married. The couple, disguised in sunglasses, had brought along several suitcases, a pink blow-up doll, swim fins, and the boy's seven-year-old sister, who planned to act as witness. "What struck us was that the little ones were completely on their own," said a police spokesman, "and that they had lots of swimming gear with them."

Behold dear reader(s)

Who SAYS I can't draw anything cute.

13 January 2009

Flying Car.

From England to Timbuktu. TRUE STORY! ADVENTURE! GLEE!


And a picture of said car, from live footage. Who says I haven't got the goods.

07 January 2009

06 January 2009

The Experiment.

I have this really weird fascination/complete revulsion for books, movies, etc, that are quintessentially, all-caps-ically, MALE. Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk is the last known example of this. It was one of the grossest books I've ever read, but I must have finished it in about four hours. The most interesting thing about it, is that there are predominantly men (it's about a porn shoot where some woman is trying to break a gang bang world record, from the perspective of three of the constitutent men, one of the women organizers, and, nominally, the porn star) There are, as stated, only two women characters, though somehow it ends up the book is fundamentally actually about these two women.  In the case of this book the results are not pretty.
Well. So I saw this movie Das Experiment last night (the Experiment) (I think that's l'Experiment in french, but would have to look it up to be sure) It's a german film about these guys who agree to be locked up in jail for fourteen days, 12 as prisoners and 8 as guards, as a social experiment on prison life, claustrophobia, and the behavioural changes and agression that develop as a result of being locked up. It's based on an actual experiment that was carried out some years ago at Stanford University.
Again, funnily enough, there were only two women characters in this film, one a woman the main character meets and has a liaison with one night before going into the clink, and the other, who is one of the scientists spearheading the experiment (who, of course, attempts to stop it when it first starts getting out of hand, only to be thwarted by her male counterpart) 
The film is horrific. But I found it remarkable how even in their near absence throughout the story (except for near the climactic ending), this film became so very much about the women. Or rather, about women. Just...about women. And it was really really good, actually.

04 January 2009

As quoted by Monsieur de Botton...

What in us really wants 'truth'?...We asked the value of this will. Suppose we want truth: why not rather untruth? and uncertainty? even ignorance?...The falseness of a judgement is to us not necessarily an objection to a judgement ... the question is to what extent it is life-advancing, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-breeding; and our fundamental tendency is to assert that the falsest judgements...are the most indispensable to us...that to renounce false judgements would be to renounce life, would be to deny life. 
(Nietzsche | Beyond Good and Evil)

My personal idea of hip living.

Out with my most hippest friends the other night, where talk invariably turned to all manner of liberal behaviour in the realms of romance and/or doin' it. And, invariably, it was like "Yay, illicit encounters in public places" and "Yay, illicit encounters with as many hip people as you can in the name of hip young living", "Dude (refering to me, of course), you're SO straight", and "Yay, kissing someone else doesn't count as cheating".

Yeah. Yay.

How about, it's 2009, I'm not that hip, I'm Happy I'm not that hip, I am really straight, puritanically so, even, (despite being an avid supporter of non-straightness) and "Yay, let's keep it simple, date one person at a time, try to actually respect them as well as oneself in the process, and do it in a bed for a change." 
Let's face it, illicit encounters in public places was a kick, and fine for the hip-sex-resume-building bullshit of one's twenties. But it's always overrated, it's rarely that physically gratifying, and honestly, more often than not, it's more bother than it's worth.
So, with this posting, I hereby cast off my proverbial "hip" membership aspiration card in the name of good old monogamous, straight-up dating people, and simple old Doin' It. Like, at home Doin' It.

Here Here.