UPDATE 13 October 2015: As many people have let me know, the Uni-ball Millino is no longer carried by Jetpens. In fact, my Millino stopped working after about a year, which was rather disappointing. I have yet to find another mechanical pencil that holds onto lead the way the Millino did– the only other one that made a similar claim that I bought (and I forgot to make a note of what it was) didn’t do it nearly as well. Meanwhile, my Uni-ball Kuru Toga (with Alpha Gel) is still going strong after all these years, so I consider it a good purchase!
I’ve had a long-standing gripe about mechanical pencils.
Now, I stopped using wooden pencils a long time ago, mostly for the convenience of not having to worry about sharpening the darn thing all the time. A classic artist will probably tell me that the difference between a mechanical pencil and a wooden pencil is as night and day as the difference between a brush pen and a real brush (I am firmly in the Real Brush camp, BTW), but I’ve become quite comfortable with the things and I use them nearly exclusively for drawing.
Every single mechanical pencil I’ve owned has always had the same problem– the mechanism loses its grip on the lead when there’s still a good 5 mm left, as shown in the photo above. For reference I’ve included an unused lead, and a Canadian dime. The shorter black piece is what was left when the pictured pencil (a comfy Uni-ball Kuru Toga with Alpha Gel from Jetpens.com, which I first got about five months ago) spit it out. That’s nearly a fifth of the original lead going to waste! For years this drove me nuts. I’d do what I could to squeeze as much out of that lead remnant, but every time it seemed like I was throwing a disappointing percentage of my money into the garbage.
Behold the Uni-ball Millino, also from Jetpens. The grip isn’t as comfy as the Kuru Toga’s Alpha Gel, but it will hold on tight to that lead until the last millimeter (and for a reasonable price, too). See how little of the lead is left when the Millino is done with it! In fact, what I did was to take that enormous piece which the Kuru Toga dropped and stuck it in the Millino to polish it off. That way I get the comfort and rotating power (did I mention that pencil turns the lead automatically so you can keep a sharper point on your lead? Brilliant.) of the Kuru Toga, and still be economical for the last bit.
You might wonder if it wouldn’t just be more convenient to use the Millino all the time and not be bothered with having to move the final piece of lead from one mechanical pencil to the other. I did, in fact, consider that when I first got the Millino. But there is an important thing to know about it: due to its nature, it doesn’t play well with certain drafting tools.
If you examine the clutch mechanism of both pencils closely, you’ll see that the Millino (on the right) has a much shorter tip. That may not at first seem like a big deal, but if you want to use a ruler or french curve or Ames lettering guide, that tip is necessary. The long tip allows for a smooth gliding surface against the edge of a ruler (and gives you a better view of your lead against the paper). The Millino won’t even fit into my lettering guide.
So there you have it! The one-two punch of the Kuru Toga plus the Millino means I get the best of both worlds.
(Hope you enjoyed the glimpses of upcoming Galaxion pages!)
This weekend I heard lots of people say the same thing: TCAF is so full of amazing creators that the experience is almost overwhelming. At every turn you find wonderful things that you want to own, and you hardly know how to spend your money! You want to read it all. My husband told me on the first day that he’d already blown through his budget and he hadn’t even left the second floor atrium. (Though we somehow found some money for the second day, for some of the other wonderful books we wanted. Here’s a link to a photo the hubby took of our haul. I think we need a whole new bookshelf for all this!) So, yes. It really was a great show.
This year the atrium had a middle aisle of tables, which TCAF organizer Chris Butcher told me was at the request of the folks running the library, who wanted the area to seem more “full.” I’d say they got their wish! From about 11:00am onwards the second floor was quite crowded, and I’m told the first floor was equally packed. At most shows I have slow times when I can sit down and work on some sketches—not at this show! Typically at a comic con I’ll get lots of folks who zoom right on by my table with barely a glance, either because they aren’t there to buy comics or they have specific interests that don’t overlap with what I do. Not at TCAF. Here, the majority of passers-by, even the ones that didn’t buy anything, seemed to linger long enough to really take in each table’s offerings. There didn’t seem to be that reluctance I often find at other shows to pick up and flip through a book. The people coming by were here because they were looking for something to read. It was… nice.
Sunday was, as you might suppose, more laid back than Saturday, so I was able to go around a little and hunt down some creators I’d been looking forward to meeting, and say hello to a few familiar faces. I was delighted to finally get to meet Dylan Meconis, who was as lovely a person as I’d imagined. I picked up a copy of her new book, volume 1 of Family Man. I love the webcomic, and I know I’ll enjoy it all over again reading it on paper. I was also pleased to meet Barry Deutsch, who created the comic with what has to be the best tagline ever: “Yet another Troll-fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl Comic.” Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. I thought this was just going to be a collected version of the webcomic, but it turns out that the whole story has been expanded and there’s lots of new material! Woo hoo! I only had a far-too-brief chat with Angela Melick of the webcomic Wasted Talent (I am totally digging her book– why didn’t I go over to her table when I had the chance???), but I did find time to bring my daughter—who is a huge fan of comic strips like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes, not to mention nuts about dogs—over to meet Dave Kellett and get a copy of his book Pugs signed to her (she brought it with her to school today). I bought his Drive collection for me, and burbled on about how much I love listening to the Webcomics Weekly podcast.
A bit more name-dropping here, mainly in the interest of sharing more books that you should check out: Jim Ottaviani had with him copies of his imminent book on Feynman (yay!), and my son was grinning from ear to ear when he showed me the copy he’d won of the also-not-quite-released book Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman. I was so glad that Crystal Yates of Earthsong and Stef of Sarah Zero stopped by– their respective webcomics are about as different as you can get, but each is amazing in its own way. And old pal Mike White—whom I haven’t seem in over a decade!—had the table next to mine, and he had with him copies of his new book from SLG, Amity Blamity. He drew incredibly cute sketches inside of every book—every one!—he sold: Chester the pig high-fiving a little cartoon-version of the person who just bought the book. Awwww!
Galaxion Book 2 did manage to arrive in time, so TCAF saw the debut of my second graphic novel! I packed what I thought would be way more books than I would sell, but out of a whole case of books I only brought home two. And that’s not even taking into account the other things I had for sale. What a weekend!
Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say they’ve enjoyed my comic, and to all who bought some stuff. You made this the best convention ever. And I know I say that a lot, but it really was!
Because as anyone who does it knows, it IS an obsession.
If you aren’t familiar with geocaching, it’s a kind of treasure hunt played with GPS devices. You’re given a set of coordinates where some kind of container—the geocache—is hidden, and you use your GPS-enabled unit to get there. Once you get to ground zero, the real hunt begins. This game is played all over the world with over a million caches hidden (this is not an exaggeration), and chances are good that there is a geocache hidden somewhere that you pass by every day!
Although I remember reading about the game many years ago, it was my neighbour who got me really interested. She told me that there was a geocache hidden near a path that was part of our regular morning walk. I was fascinated by the idea that there was a secret treasure waiting, but only for those in the know. I HAD to find it. I’d recently acquired a Garmin unit for my car, so using that we started hunting.
Of course, the road navigation GPSrs (that’s “GPS receivers” for short) aren’t really meant for use off-road, and tend not to have the kind of accuracy needed for geocaching. It’s sort of like trying to hammer in a nail with a pair of pliers—you can do it, but it’s not the right tool for the job. (I’m now using an iPhone, which is great for most things but I still want to own a dedicated and more rugged GPSr.) It took us three or four trips of coming back to comb over the landscape, and finally a couple of hints from the fellow who placed the cache, before we found the cache. It turned out to be a small metal tube craftily hidden in the tree, and when you opened it up there was a small roll of paper that you signed to prove you’d found it. That was our first signed log.
I became a member at geocaching.com, which is the most well-known site for geocache listings. When I typed in my address I saw on the map that there were literally hundreds of geocaches hidden within ten miles of my house! And that, pretty much, was the start of the obsession.
Caches are hidden by other geocachers. Often they choose to hide a cache at a certain location in order to show people a particularly interesting spot. Maybe it has a beautiful view, or maybe it has some historical importance. One cache I found while visiting friends in New Jersey brought us to a rock formation with petroglyphs carved into the surface. Another that we found just this past weekend led us to a tree where you can see the local beavers have been hard at work. When you ask a geocacher what they like most about this game, they usually talk about all the wonderful locations they’ve visited. Often these places are right in their own town– they just never knew were there until they came to hunt for the geocache.
While some caches are just a small “micro” container with nothing but the log book inside, many are large enough to hold items to trade. This is the part my kids love. We bring little toys so that they can trade for new things that they find in the caches. Each hide is different. You may think—like I did, at first– that following your GPSr to a set of coordinates where a container is hidden can’t be much of a challenge, but even the best your GPS units only reliably get you within about 5 metres of ground zero, and then you have to look carefully. For difficult hides I can spend 30 minutes trying to find it, and sometimes I end up not finding it at all. But the feeling of elation when you finally discover the cache makes it all worthwhile.
I’m still a newbie at this game; I’ve been caching for only a few months and with less than a hundred finds to my caching name. There are still so many caches waiting for me! At my last comic convention (which was TCAF in downtown Toronto), I arrived early enough to grab a couple of caches within walking distance of the building before the show began. You can bet that whenever I travel to an out-of-town con, I’ll leave time to go find whatever is nearby.
You can find out more about the sport/game/obsession at www.geocaching.com. If you are already a cacher, you can look me up—my cacher name is SurveyContactTeam. I’d love to hear your stories and favourite must-find geocaches. And if you ever see this button in a cache, you’ll know I was there!
Finally, the long-delayed official announcement:
Galaxion Book 2: First Contact is available to order! Hooray!
Book 2 collects chapters 4, 5, and 6, plus the “A Matter of Principle” short story. It also contains a section with sample scripts and pencils, so you can see a bit of my behind-the-scenes process of comic creation. Plus you get the same sort of never-seen-before bonus illustrations you got in Book 1. All for only $18.00, which includes shipping!
For those of you who have been paying close attention, this is not going to be news to you. I’ve actually had copies here for quite a while, but for various reasons I’ve put off the “order now!” announcement. Still, if you haven’t clicked on the Store Page recently, here are a few things you might not know:
• PDF or CBZ format digital books (DRM free!) are also available to order, suitable for reading on your favourite mobile device.
• If you order Book 1 and Book 2 together, you get a deal: both books for only $30, including shipping.
• And with the purchase of ANY physical book, you also get a digital copy, for FREE! I figure, hey, if you bought a copy, you should be able to read it however you want.
At this point, some of you are probably thinking, “Well, that’s just great, but I already bought a copy from you,” maybe online or at a convention or even at a comic shop. “What about my digital copy?” Yeah, I do see your point. You should be able to have your digital copies, too! I know that it can be much more enjoyable to read a paper copy and turn the pages and flip back and forth to the best parts, but maybe you’ll want the convenience of being able to load it up on your tablet, and have it with you so you can look up the name of that strange engineer (without having to wait for website load times) whenever the need strikes you.
So I think to myself, “I’d like to be able to give people who already own the book their digital copies, but it’s not like I can ask people to show their receipt. How can they show proof of purchase? Wait—I know!”
Here’s the deal! You send me, either snail mail or email, a photo of yourself with your physical copy of Galaxion Book 1 and/or Book 2, and I’ll send you a digital copy! Simple as that. Keep in mind this is for a limited time only, so take advantage of this opportunity while you can! And if you know anyone who may not visit the site very often but has a copy at home, please tell them about the offer so they don’t miss out. Pass the word around!
I know there is a small potential for abuse with this offer, but I have faith in the goodwill and honesty of my readers. J Also, please note that this offer does not apply to the older Galaxion graphic novel (or “Black Book”)! We hope to get that all scanned in and available someday, but we’re not quite there yet. Thanks so much for your continuing support!
Good heavens, has it been five years already? I started posting the Galaxion webcomic on Girlamatic.com on the Tuesday after Labour Day, 2006. So yeah, I guess it has. Speaking of Girlamatic, I originally made the above image for Girlamatic’s 5 year anniversary in 2008. It didn’t get transferred over here when I started up galaxioncomics.com, so a fair number of you may never have seen it. I think it works reasonably well for this occasion.
I’m somewhat amazed that in five years I still haven’t quite caught up to where I left off in the older version. I’m nearly there, though, and I’m happy with where this version has taken me. Webcomics is a very different game from publishing floppy comic books and I feel that I’m still struggling to get the hang of it. The accepted wisdom is that comics that do well on the web are newspaper-strip style humour comics, and that they need to post new strips 3 or more times a week to hold an audience. Galaxion doesn’t fit any of those parameters, and it’s in black and white to boot. I guess I’ve never had a great deal of interest in appealing to the masses.
And yet, slow and steady, Galaxion readership does seem to be growing. So I guess I’m doing something right. To my own astonishment, I have readers who’ve been following the story since the mini-comic beginning in 1993! I talked to some of them at FanExpo a couple weekends ago. To answer some of the frequently-asked questions I get at such conventions: yes, there is an ending, yes, I know what it is, and no, I will never restart the comic ever again. (Unless there is a great deal of money involved, I suppose. Heh.)
(The right-side image comes from an unfinished upcoming page, since other than this the last appearance Aria made was almost a year ago.) I can only imagine where I’ll be in another five years, but the prospect is exciting. I humbly thank all of you, whether you found this comic recently or if you’ve been around a bit longer. Thanks for coming. Cake and cookies are being served in the lounge.
The last time I went to a comic convention in New York City at the Jacob Javitz Center, the city got about a foot of snow dumped on it the night before it opened. With flights cancelled and roads only somewhat plowed, you don’t need me to tell you how well attended that con was. Oh, and also our ride back to Toronto bailed out on us, so we had to scramble to find an alternate means of transportation (which turned out to be a Greyhound bus). That was 1994. So 17 years later, I figured time enough had passed and I was ready to give it another go!
I made it to registration with a minimum number of aggravations (this being NYC, I fully expected to encounter challenges when trying to find a spot to unload our car). But then events turned a swift corner when the folks handing out the badges at the exhibitor counter said they had no record of me. Or my comic. Or even the Webcomics Pavilion, which is the area for which I’d purchased a table. Um… uh oh. Can you believe, I’d completely forgotten to bring a receipt? I’ve been doing conventions for years, I should know this simple rule! On the other hand, in all my years of conventions I’ve never actually needed to show a receipt before. However, technology came to the rescue– I was able to call up the relevant email on my iPhone and show it to the registration organizers, who accepted it right away. They gave me my badges and pointed me to Artists Alley. I was in!
Well… almost. I was in, but had no idea where my table might possibly be. Eventually I tracked down someone who at least had heard of the Webcomics Pavilion. It took two hours– right up until the doors opened to the public– but finally my table was identified and I could set up.
Not a terribly auspicious beginning to my triumphant return to New York!
(I feel obliged to add, though: all the people who I asked for help, from the red-shirted con staff to the green-shirted volunteers, were all very friendly and sympathetic and did all they could, including helping me to cart my too-many-boxes-and-bags around while we sorted out where I belonged. So kudos to the NYCC staff for their best efforts in the face of Very Little Information.)
Jacob Javitz was huge and confusing, especially with that blocked-off area-under-construction in the middle, and it took me two days to finally figure out the lay of the land (though to be fair, my husband had it figured out within about two minutes. Grr.). And that was without the throngs of people filling up all the aisles! Indeed, the place was packed to its figurative gunwales with attendees for the three main days of the show, and boy, was I glad to have a space to call my own behind my table in row “O” of Artists Alley. Yeah, and about that Webcomics Pavilion thing– see, when I put in my application lo these many months ago, I was told I hadn’t been granted a spot in it, but I could apply for a table in the Webcomics Pavilion. Turns out it was really all one big Artists Alley, with the exception of us in the last two rows not having our names on our tables.
Oh dear. Am I sounding grumpy about this show? Heh, I don’t want to give the impression I had a bad time. There are always stresses associated with the first time exhibiting at a new show, and this one in New York! I tell you, I had to get to the train to Grand Central Station and negotiate my way to the crosstown bus– and even occasionally navigate the subway system– all by myself. Each day. And I survived to tell the tale! I guess the city isn’t so scary after all.
So while the rest of my family did typical touristy things, I manned the table (and I am totally not grumpy about that). I had some brand new product to debut– prints! I decided I would create a fan-art nod to one of the biggest artistic influences of my youth, Leiji Matsumoto. I didn’t get the Captain Harlock piece done in time, but I had Matel from Galaxy Express 999 and Wildstar and Nova (which is how I knew them growing up) from Star Blazers, AKA Space Cruiser Yamato. They certainly attracted a lot of attention! Before this show, I’d figured these prints would probably only catch the eye of people from my generation, people old enough to remember anime from the 70s and 80s. I was wrong! It seems just like in the fashion industry, everything old is new again, and there are lots of younger folks who are, by various means, learning to appreciate the, er, “classics.” Could it really be that me and my old-fashioned style get to be cool again?
I met several regular readers, some people who remembered me from my floppy-comic days, and I got to introduce Galaxion to a whole bunch of new folk. It was great to see Ananth and Yuko of the webcomic Johnny Wander again, and Svetlana Chamkova dropped by which was a pleasant surprise. We chatted with Cory Doctorow about Makerbots, and I caught up with Zander Cannon, whose storytelling skills I’ve admired for years, but haven’t seen in over a decade. We picked up Evolution from his table (which is doubly exciting to me because it’s written by another old fave, Jay Hosler), and also a lot of his minis. The one about the Saga of the Master of Feng Shui had me snorting my breakfast cereal.
I’ve got one more part of our New York trip to share with you, probably the best part, and one for which I wasn’t even present (but I’m still not grumpy ).
On Thursday evening, my husband took the kids to a bookstore in lower Manhattan where the one and only Sir Terry Pratchett was in town to do a reading from his new Discworld book, Snuff. After the reading, the audience was told there was time for only three questions. My 11-yr-old son raised his hand each time, but didn’t get called on. After the three questions, the esteemed author said he was willing to answer one more. And this time, apparently much of the audience surrounding my son pointed to him with his raised hand. So he got to ask his question (which was something like, “what first inspired you to start writing?”).
Then, while the bookstore staff was setting up the table for the next part of the evening, Terry Pratchett called out to ask for the boy who had asked that last question to come over, so he could chat with him privately for a minute. Well, you can imagine how my husband’s jaw must have hit the floor! One of our most favourite authors, one who is so successful and so well respected that he was given a Knighthood, wanted to give my son some writing advice; a short master class in fantasy writing. Part of what he said to my son (I am told) was this: read some of the old, classic fantasy novels. He listed some authors: Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, and Jack Vance were among them. And then he said, think about what you like about them, and how you might tell those stories for today’s audiences.
As my husband tells it, he was struck by what good advice that was. Not that you should embrace the old tried-and-true ways, not that you should dismiss the old in favour of new innovations, but to learn from those past greats, and adapt to the present. That’s the kind of advice that will carry you through many parts of life.
In all, a most successful convention.
Although plenty of the Galaxion crew obsess about their coffee, I happen to be a tea drinker. In recent years with loose-leaf specialty tea stores popping up around my city like, well, like they were Starbucks locations, I am in tea heaven. I have a growing collection of flavours, many of which involve chocolate in some way, but my morning favourite is a cinnamon blend. When I sit down to draw, I bring a cuppa tea to help get me going. Tea and comics. Yum.
But now, as if making sci-fi comics while I drink my tea was not geeky enough, I have (thanks to some recent gifts) leveled up my morning ritual. Behold, this is my new loose-leaf tea strainer:
And here is my fabulous new mug:
Here’s what they look like in action.
Seriously, I don’t think it can get better than this. If you notice the quality of Galaxion starting to improve over the next little while, I think we can confidently narrow down the cause.
As some of you are already aware, February 14th just happens to be Captain Fusella Mierter’s birthday. How can I let a Valentine’s Day go by– especially one that falls right on a Tuesday, Galaxion’s traditional Update Day– go uncelebrated? Plus, we’ve seen so little of Fusella these past months. She deserves a little something special on her birthday, and what’s more appropriate than to make her royalty for the day: Fusella, Queen of Hearts!
And you can be a part of the birthday celebrations, too! Fusella normally lives in, shall we say, a rather black-and-white world, but a little colour would really brighten her day. Why not help her out? You can download a PDF (2.2MB) or TIFF (1.2MB) file (whichever is easiest for you to use) of this image and colour it however you like. (The file images are bigger than shown, 8.5″ x 11″.) Use a colouring program, use your new iPad app, print it out and use crayons, whatever you enjoy most!
Just for fun, If you send me your version of Fusella, Queen of Hearts in colour, I’ll mail you– that’s actual mail through Canada Post, folks– a postcard that has my coloured FQH printed on it. Perfect for hanging on your fridge. Keep in mind this isn’t a contest– everybody who contributes gets a postcard as a thank you! I won’t be posting my colour art anywhere online, so this will be your only chance to see it.
You can send me (email link on the sidebar) the jpg file of your coloured piece, take a photo and send me that, or snail mail it if you wish (contact me for the address). I’m very flexible! If you’re OK with it, I’ll be pleased to post submissions to a gallery on this site. [Edit: The Gallery is now up!] Obviously I’ll need your snail mail address to send you the card. (I promise I am not collecting addressing for any other purpose than these postcards.) Comes complete with a gen-u-ine Canadian stamp! Or possibly two, if you’re overseas.
I’ll keep this offer open until the end of March (but feel free to ask for more time if necessary, because hey, this is just for fun). Happy colouring!
Recently this came up as a topic of discussion on one of the forums I follow. My first thought was, gosh, I still use mostly low-tech methods to create Galaxion–meaning I draw and ink on paper– so surely such simple techniques would translate to a simple set of tools. Paper and pen, right? And ink. And the pencil. And the eraser, too. Hmm. Just how much stuff do I use? Well, I decided to gather it all together and take a picture. I had to stand on a chair.
What you see here are only the things I use on every single page. I have other tools I pull out occasionally, like circle templates, tracing paper, and other sizes of tech pens, which for simplicity’s sake– ah, the irony– I left out of the photo. What the heck is all this stuff? Left to right, top to bottom, I have:
- An old yoghurt cup for water to clean the brush at the table
- Canon brand smooth Bristol paper, 14×17, which I trim to 11×17 for each page
- Clear plastic ruler, for drawing margins and panel borders
- Deleter Black Ink #3, one of the nicer inks I’ve tried
- Zebra Brush Marker, large tip, for inking word balloons
- Pentel Clic eraser
- Zebra Brush Marker, medium tip, for emphasis lettering and inking straight lines
- Uni-Ball Alpha Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil, size 0.5, “B” leads
- Copic Multiliner, size 0.7, for all other lettering
- Winsor Newton Series 7 brush, size 1, for most of the inking
- Ames Lettering Guide
- Mono brand eraser, large
- Kneaded eraser
- Rolling ruler, for quickly drawing parallel lines
- Straight-edge ruler, for inking straight lines
- Scrap paper to remove excess ink from brush
- Rag to remove excess water from brush
- MacBook (and Photoshop CS2), for cleaning up art and adding grey tones
- Wacom Intuos 3 tablet
And here’s the tool that didn’t fit on the table:
I purchased this monstrosity, the Brother MFC-6490CW scanner/inkjet printer, because it has an 11×17 bed, so I can scan my pages whole instead of having to scan in parts and stitch them together, which is what I had to do before. Much easier.
For those of you who are most interested in the pens and stuff, here’s a close-up of those:
I talked more about some of these items in a blog post from a couple years ago. If you’re wondering why some of the tools have tape on the ends, it’s merely there as away for me to mark when I started using them (I write the date on the tape). I’d been wondering how long some of my tools last, especially the brushes, which are expensive. My current one has only been around since the beginning of the year.
Why so many tools? Why, for example, do I need three different erasers? Well, I suppose I don’t. I like the kneaded eraser because it’s gentler to the paper and it doesn’t leave any of that eraser dust, but for some jobs it just doesn’t cut it. I like the Clic eraser because it gets into small spaces easily, and I like the large eraser when I have to erase large areas, or when I’m cleaning up the pencil lines after I’ve finished inking. Each does a different job well, or at least represents a reasonable compromise. For example, I used to use Rapidographs for lettering because with the ink I could get a much darker line (markers are never as dark), but they require a very upright position to write with. I’m not happy with the greyer line I get with the Copic Multiliner, but it does make all the hand-lettering easier. So I’m using that for now, until I find something better. Meanwhile, the Rapidographs are still good for making straight lines. And speaking of…
These are even more tools I realized should have gone in the first picture. A non-descript pair of scissors to trim the page, a Koh-i-noor Rapidograph, size 4 (or 1.2, depending which numbering system you like) that I use to ink the panel borders, the Ultradraw ink that goes in it, and a big fat soft brush. The brush is completely trivial, since all I use it for right now is to gently brush away eraser dust (too often I just use my hand, and then end up smudging the pencil lines). I had it lying around so I figured, why not.
So, yeah… that’s a lot of tools. Maybe art tools to me are like kitchen gadgets to people who like to cook– there are so many specialized tools that do specific things really well. I know my kitchen drawers are full of little gizmos I consider indispensable and I don’t even enjoy cooking all that much. Could I pare it down to one knife, one big spoon, one pot, and a frying pan? Sure. But I probably won’t, because I like my gizmos.
These days more and more artists are switching to purely digital work, which means their entire list of tools is a computer and a tablet. Or maybe only just a tablet, if they happen to have one of those fancy Cintiqs. Think of how clean my desk would be. Makes switching to digital almost tempting. Almost.
The literary sci-fi/fantasy/horror con Ad Astra happened this past weekend. It’s a small fan-run show in its 31st year, and that means it’s completely different vibe from the big comic cons I tend to frequent like FanExpo and the New York City Comicon. Ad Astra is much more low key, relaxed, and full of friendly people who appreciate the genre. There are lots of panels with intriguing topics, such as “Book Binding Workshop”, “Creating Fantasy and SF Languages”, and “Real Space Science”. It’s one of those shows where you really want to book a room to stay overnight at the con hotel even if you live in town, because the party goes on til the wee hours. I was sad when I had to go home as soon as the dealers’ room (I use that term loosely, because dealers tables were spread all over the place) closed! Compared to most of the large, professionally-run conventions, this one seems hopelessly disorganized. But somehow it doesn’t seem to matter because everyone just takes it in stride. The crowd skews a bit older than the typical Anime con, which works nicely for me. Ultimately, Ad Astra is about having fun with friends. I like that.
Another difference, from my point of view as a vendor, is the “traffic flow” of the attendees. At most of the shows I go to these days there is a constant stream of people wandering by my table. And yeah, often they’re not stopping long enough to look at my stuff, but you never know who might decide to stop and look so I never feel like I can take a break. At Ad Astra there are certainly busy times, but there are also distinct quiet times when everyone is off at one of those aforementioned interesting panels. The result of this is, I had lots of time to do something I haven’t done in a while– produce con sketches!
I guess you can call this cute little chibi-Worf a follow-up to Aria in the ST: TNG suit. When I drew this I was thinking it would be a nice donation for the con’s charity auction… until I realized they weren’t doing a charity auction! Oh, well.
One fellow who stopped by my table asked if I’d ever made any “Triangle 9″ mugs like the ones the Galaxion’s lab crew drink their coffee from. Well, I did paint one for my own personal use, but I’ve never had any made to sell. (I did have it on a button, though, and he was pleased with that.) After that conversation, I drew the above sketch. Makes you wonder how it could be that Aria hasn’t yet learned never to drink the lab’s coffee… I figure she probably agrees to a proffered mug from time to time just to be polite.
There were lots of people in some sort of costume, and a high percentage of them were of the Steampunk variety. Now, Darvin is a rather dapper fellow. Of all my characters, he’s the one I imagine wold most enjoy the chance to dress up in some psuedo-Victorian duds.
Sitting across from me was a group of guys from a Maker Space club here in Toronto, Site 3. They had with them a MakerBot, which I, and lots of other people, found fascinating. I’ve read online about all the cool things MakerBots can do, but this was my first chance to see one in action. Thoughts of Maker Spaces led me inevitably to thoughts of a certain Galaxion character.
I didn’t think too hard about the logistics, not to mention the consequences, of kludging a MakerBot to run on chocolate. I suggest you don’t, either.
At the table next to me was a group of ladies selling corsets, tiny feathered hats, and other items to go with your cosplay wardrobe (Apollonie is the designer’s website). They all got a great deal of enjoyment out of playing dress-up with various Victorian-curious convention-goers who’d never had the opportunity to try on a corset before. They’d take measurements to select the right size corset and then happily lace up their customers, who were thrilled at suddenly having an hourglass figure and a soaring new bustline to match. And all the ladies behind the table would gush– quite sincerely– at how fabulous they looked, and soon after that people pulled out their wallets. Men were not excluded from this experience, by the way– several of them also got laced up and gushed over (“That looks amazing on you!”). It was so amusing to watch that I eventually had to draw the above. If Darvin would be the one to most enjoy dressing up, I suspect Fusella would be the one to most enjoy playing dress-up with her friends.
…And that was my con weekend! Despite all the time I had for the sketches, I did actually have a reasonably good show sales-wise. I didn’t end up selling any of the above sketches, though, so if you’re interested in owning one for $30 (which includes shipping), shoot me an email! Link on the sidebar.