José-Luis Olivares on Mixed Media Comics

José-Luis Olivares is a recent graduate from The Center for Cartoon Studies. Since I first encountered José’s comics, I’ve been impressed by his unique approach to picture-making.  José goes beyond the traditional pen and ink, incorporating a variety of mixed media on his comic pages (paint, food, junk, you name it).


José lectures about mixed media comics, using a Kirby collage page as an example.

One of José’s more ambitious mixed media comics, First Flower, was created for his senior thesis project.  It’s now on permanent display in the Schulz Library, and on José’s website.  I asked José about First Flower, and his other mixed media comics.  Below you’ll find his detailed and insightful responses.

 

What motivated you to create mixed media comics?

 I’ve always enjoyed drawing and playing with different materials. I feel more comfortable holding a graphite stick than using a nib. I like being messy and freeing myself up when I draw. At CCS, too, I loved learning about the history of cartooning, and became inspired by all sorts of visual arts out there, like fine art, children’s books, and comics.

 

Does the computer play a role in your process – or is your method more hands on?

 For First Flower, especially, I enjoyed dabbling in the digital dark arts, but I like to jump back and forth and sometimes do things the old-fashioned way. Some of my mini-comics are made entirely computer-free. The third installment of my personal anthology, Polite Fiction, was made using a copy machine, a pile of sketchbook pages, and markers.  

 

What are some materials you’ve used in your collage comics?  Where do you find these materials?

 Eggs, lube, chalk, transparencies, grapes, receipts, glitter paint, sparkly stickers, highlighters, a stick… I like using different materials for each project. Right now I’ve got a basic brushpen-and-graphite-stick combo going on, with added digital tomfoolery. Sometimes people give me materials, like the stick, but I usually just buy them at grocery stores, art stores, or kid’s stores. I like doodling with materials meant for teenage girls, cavemen, or office workers.
Ninja Turtle Gaughin (drawn with a stick).

 

What is the most unusual item you’ve integrated into your mixed media artwork?

 In high school, I made giant Picasso recreations out of spray-painted beans.

 

Could you walk us through some of your process?  For example, how did you go about creating page one of First Flower? In the comic there are two narratives occurring, one in color with more digital techniques, and the other penciled in grayscale. I started First Flower with a series of messy versions of thumbnails and then kept on building up layers until it was fleshed out, combining many hand-drawn elements in Photoshop. For example, the background of page one was drawn on Bristol paper using colored markers and then later digitally manipulated. The characters were created by scanning in cut-out shapes and textures.

 

What mixed media artists have inspired you?

 I’m inspired by tons of artists and spend most of my time online looking for inspiration. Eric Carle, Virginia Lee Burton, Richard McGuire, Keith Haring, Frans Masereel, Steve Bissette, Souther Salazar, Mo Willems, William Steig…I could go on forever! I get big new art crushes on a daily basis. My current crush is Remy Charlip.

 

Could you tell us about the children’s book you are working on?  How are you using mixed media to illustrate this story?

 I’ve been working on an adaption of the classic Spanish-language nursery rhyme, Sana, Sana, Colita de Rana, that my mom would sing to me as a kid. The book is a simple story about a tadpole who injures his tail and learns that it takes time for the wound to heal.  After sketching out the pages on the computer, I paint with watercolors, draw with graphite, and create digital patterns, then assemble everything in Photoshop. I’m still working on the final look of the book, but I’m having a blast experimenting with styles and techniques.

Thanks, José.  Editors, publisher, take note!  I think Sana, Sana, Colita de Rana will be a big hit.

– Robyn Chapman

Survey of the Drawn Story I essays…

Hello all, Stephen Bissette here. I’ve been part of CCS since its initial summer classes (2005) and pioneer year (2005-2006), and since then I’ve been teaching and co-teaching (with Robyn Chapman) our comics history course, Survey of the Drawn Story. Initially, Survey was a single-semester course; it’s now a two semester course, which allows for far greater depth and expanse of coverage.

As of our Spring 2010 semester, my former co-instructor Robyn Chapman began the practice of posting select essays from our students concerning aspects of comics history. I’m carrying on that “tradition” (we’ll make it one yet!) starting tomorrow here at the Schulz Library blog, offering a selection of essays—some in written form, some in comics form—from this fall’s Survey of the Drawn Story I class.

This first batch of essays focus exclusively on various comic strips of the 20th Century. I’ll be posting them in roughly chronological order according to when their subject matter was either launched or in its heyday. I hope you’ll enjoy these essays, some of which will be posted complete, some of which I’ll offer excerpts from (to avoid repetition, to eliminate factual errors, or to focus on the meat of a given paper).

Please take them in the context in which they were written and/or drawn: these were deadline assignments, reflecting just one of the many projects the students are juggling in a given period of time here at CCS. There’s much good work and solid writing and cartooning here, but this isn’t what they would create for publication or for a more professional venue, given proper research time and a paying venue.

Nevertheless, all these essays provide engaging, enlightening, and entertaining reading, and we hope you’ll find something of interest here in the coming days…

– Stephen R. Bissette, Mountains of Madness, VT

Boody Call!

Comics archivist, scholar, fan, collector and all-around knowledgable maniac Craig Yoe has been releasing a tsunami of delightful books over the past year or so, and among my favorites is the recent Boody: The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers (2009, Fantagraphics), providing a handsome sampler of curious comics by Gordon G. “Boody” Rogers (1904–1996).

My own introduction to Boody Rogers came, not via his comics (oddly enough), but via his autobiography. I was always intrigued by a hand-lettered ad that repeatedly appeared in The Comics Buyer’s Guide weekly back in the 1980s, and I saw a friend’s copy of the book Boody was self-distributing, Homeless Bound (1984, Pioneer Book Publishers). It didn’t do any good to beg or whine: by that time, the ads were no longer in the CBG. I tracked down my copy years later during a book sale at a library during a visit to Texas, and it’s had a treasured spot on my personal library shelf ever since.

Rogers opened his illustrated autobiography with a memorable curtain-raiser:

“Mr. Marshlo was beyond a doubt the nastiest, dirtiest, filthiest bastard I had ever had the displeasure to see! He owned a cotton farm near Childress, a small West Texas town which I claim as home base. The last water Mr. Marshlo ever had on his head must have been when he was christened, but it had long since disappeared! He wore a shaggy beard that bore evidence of this last several meals. It usually had coffee stains, dried gravy, eggs, butter, and sometimes a few beans tangled in it. Just looking at him would make a strong man throw up! He was a rag-tailed, holy mess!”

And so it began… Homeless Bound, and my romance with Boody Rogers‘s work. There wasn’t much about Boody‘s cartooning career in the book—an anecdote here, and a digression there—but it sure was an entertaining read, and one came away feeling like you’d spent a week or two shooting the breeze with Boody himself. His personality came through in spades, and the man was a charmer and a born storyteller.

Thereafter, I kept my eyes peeled at every book nook and yard sale I stumbled through. I lucked into gold once, and only once, more: a pretty good condition copy of a regional Texan paperback Rogers had illustrated, Wichita Falls: A Lady with a Past (1978, Western Christian Foundation, Inc.). There wasn’t much Boody in the book, but what there was I savored, and Glenn Shelton‘s text was brimming with enough lurid historical lore to prompt a revisit or two over the years.

It was tough to find any comics with Rogers‘s work. It was tucked away in the fat, 64-page potpourris of titles like Big Shot and solo (I think) Rogers titles like Babe, Dudley (“The Teen-Age Sensation!”) and Sparky Watts, all pricey 1948-1950 Pre-Code oddities that seemed scarcer than chicken teeth and finer than fur on a frog, judging by their prices (when they could be found at all).

What I could scrounge up was always inventive, imaginative and antic, a weird fusion of hillbillies, monsters, babes, bodacious rednecks, and completely insane (and often quite protracted) gags, brimming with vivid action. Rogers was a natural, and his cartooning still entertains and astonishing (at times with its sheer audacity). The influences are self-evident—Fontaine Fox‘s Toonerville FolksAl Capp‘s Li’l Abner and Bill Holman‘s Smoky Stover prominent among those, though I also detect (go ahead, call me crazy) a whiff of Harry G. Peter (Wonder Woman) at times—but it’s distinctively Boody‘s own universe we’re wheeling through, with its own look, flavor, and sense of style.

The few I stumbled upon at comics cons over the years were either too expensive or missing pages (centerspreads were frequent casualties, instantly dropping four full pages of story out of the center of a vintage comic, but rendering it affordable if you brought it to the dealer’s attention), but I found a few and fell in love with his ramshackle but surprisingly cohesive fantasies. One dealer in particular tempted me more than once with a rare late 1940s comic featuring a Boody Rogers “Sparky Watts” story in which Sparky and his chrome-domed pal Slap Happy enter a microscopic realm populated with micro-monsters worthy of Ted Geisel, including a phallic cyclopean saurian-sorta critter with ears on his hips. I could never afford the damned comic, but I’m thankful to read it at last in Boody—it’s the second story in Yoe‘s collection.

There’s fourteen stories in all in this anthology, beautifully scanned, restored, and reproduced in all their four-color glory. You’ll meet Babe, “The Amazon of the Ozarks” (the strip with the biggest debt to Li’l Abner, one of a number of “hillbilly” comics Capp inspired), Sparky Watts and Slap Happy, Max Von Glamor, Mrs. Two-Ton Gooseflesh, Hattie and Bonny Pinfeathers, Cousin Fanny Hawgfat, Dudley (“The Prince of Prance!”), Jasper Fudd, and a wild menagerie of mutants, monsters and microbes (including the two-part Sparky Watts tale I was tantalized with over two decades ago, and another in the “Kingdom of the Talking Bugs”). There’s a lot of fun to be had in these pages.

My sole complaint, really, is the lack of any attribution for the stories themselves. As with many of the recent Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly collections, the lack of any archival source information is frustrating, an oversight that ill serves serious comics scholars, researchers (and teachers like me). C’mon, let us know where and when these gems were originally published!

Boody properly showcases a sizeable enough collection of complete comics stories by the wildman inkslinger from Texas, finally elevating Rogers into the pantheon he’s always been part of—if only enough folks had been able to access his work. At last, they can!

So, make room, Milt Gross, Basil Wolverton, John Stanley and the rest of you all-ages-appropriate comics humorists/fantasists of yore: Boody is here at last, and he’s stompin’ his way into the hearts of a new generation!

SR Bissette, Mountains of Madness, VT

Facebook 2010 Assignment

No, this is not a retelling of the GREAT and POWERFUL social networking portal known as Facebook but rather a humble project the new Center for Cartoon Studies students take on. Every fall, while they are still getting eight hours of sleep, the students must write a bio and draw a self-portrait which is then turned into a two-color screen print. These pages are then bound together to create a cartoonist yearbook! (Cover above: Katie Moody, Below: Mia Onorato)

Screen printing is a challenge for many reasons, some of the students come to the school with little fine art experience and many are not used to the meticulous, almost unforgiving nature of screen printing. (Below: Jan Burger)

Some students, like Andy Warner, choose to write their bios out (which is still very graphic) and others like 2010 Fellow, Dave Libens, made a comic for his bio.

And Nate Wootters even created a great page spread by designing his screen print and bio to interact with each other.

The end result is an absolutely beautiful book made out of sweat, determination and wee bit of fear. You can download the entire 2010 Facebook here and enjoy all the tremendous talent of the newest set of CCS cartoonists.

-Jen Vaughn

Mmm-Hmm!

If Kevin Shelley asked me to join his revolution, I would do it in a heartbeat not even knowing what cause he was fighting for. What I have gleaned about this mad genius is that he knows packaging and promotion.

Armed with a pair of suspenders and a finely-waxed mustache (pictured on the left), I was charmed into buying his book for the Schulz Library. How can you deny those book displays? Not only did its strong blue-red-white design remind me dearly of the postal system but the various extras such as bookmarks and matching patch sealed the deal. Please enjoy the front of the book and bookmarks, then the back! How many smiling cherries can you find?

The visual content of the book itself is truly mellifluous poetry. Whereas a rigid computer font or more-forgiving letterpress usually holds lines of lyrics captive, Shelley’s easy script are hand-drawn and absolutely beautiful in his comics.

Shelley’s work is also rather intense with a story in the gutter (the space betwixt the panels) running parallel or affecting the story of the panels.

Part of the charm of Mmm-Hmm is the use of easy language, slang and so forth woven into each line with hard consonants striking a beat, not unlike the sound of your spoon at the bottom of an ice cream dish. If you find yourself wishing for modern illustrated rhymes with adorable characters (unicorn, anyone?), look no further than Kevin Shelley’s Mmm-Hmm.

-Jen Vaughn

Professor Kevin Kilgore

Long-time readers of the Schulz Blog may remember CCS alum Kevin Kilgore’s essay on the Sangmyung University Cartooning Program in South Korea.  I’m happy to report that Kevin has recently joined the faculty of that prestigious institution!  I caught up with him over email and we chatted about his new class.

Schulz Blog: What classes are you teaching?

Kevin: I’m teaching two classes of a course titled “Idea,” and it’s all in English. I have about 40 students total. It’s a 3-hour, freshman-level course, but I have a few juniors and seniors in both of my classes. The course works on coming up with ideas, and turning them into finished art. The course title is kind of vague, so I’m trying to expose the students to non-Korean-Japanese comics. So far we’ve done a gag-comic exercise and an autobiographical exercise…we’re going to delve into minicomics for one class, and I think their final will be a group project in minicomic form.

Schulz Blog: What are your students like?

Kevin: My students range in age from 18 – 23. Some of the male students are a little older because they are usually drafted into the army for two years at the age of 19-20. There’s an even balance between male and female students. Six of my 40 students are Chinese, which I discovered the hard way. I gave them a gag assignment using the Korean dish kimchi, and they stared blankly while the Korean students put pen to paper. Although all of the students speak English, they’re rather shy when it comes to speaking in class, which can make lectures brief and one-sided. That works for me because I’m not very talkative anyway. I tend to load the class with a lot of drawing exercises to make up for the brief lecture time. The students are workhorses when it comes to the drawing exercise.

Schulz Blog: What are their interests and ambitions, as cartoonists?

Kevin: I would have to say, except for the Chinese students, the majority of my pupils are into and influenced by Japanese comics. Most of my students are Cartoon and Digital Content majors, but a handful are animation majors and there might be a fashion design major hidden in there somewhere. A lot of the students want to go into video game design because it’s good pay.  Some of my English students, at my second job, work as computer game content designers and they all seem to be well paid and happy. Happier than the businessmen I teach anyway.

Schulz Blog: How do your students relate or differ to CCS students?

Kevin: They’re very similar to CCSers in their love of comics and animation, but their backgrounds and goals differ a little. As I mentioned, a lot of the SMU students want to go into the computer game industry, so I think they’re more like Joe Kubert School students, who are maybe a little more focused on creating a product  for a company. Where I think CCSers are more into creating and self publishing their own work. And I think that’s more because there is no real independent scene here. Honestly, I haven’t spent enough time with my students to know their goals yet.

Another difference, and this is more of an observation of Korea as a whole and not my students, is that a lot of high school kids go to cram schools before entering college. So, I’m sure most of the kids in my class have mastered the fundamentals of comics before attending university.  A lot of students are producing professional-level work as 18-year olds. College is more of a finishing school for them, and kind of another ticket to be punched before getting a job.   

The Schulz Blog: In a sentence or two, could you sum up the cartooning program at Sangmyung University?

Kevin: Big! There are about 300 students in the four-year program, so it’s roughly 15 times bigger than CCS. But, the relationships between professors and students are close.

Thanks, Kevin, and good luck!

– Robyn Chapman

Making Make

I recently worked with seven cartoonists (three of them CCS alumni) to create a new comics anthology titled Make: Comics About an Intimate Act.  The intimate act is, well, pooping.  That one detail aside, this is one classy book.  Look for it soon at the Schulz Library.

Below I’ve chronicled each step of Make’s production and included a lot of handy tips about self-publishing. I really dorked out on all the production details.   Read on, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Or you might want to skim and look at the pictures.

Make’s cover, brilliantly designed by José-Luis Olivares, is a 3-color screenprint (blue, brown and pink – printed in that order).  It was a pretty easy print job (the registration didn’t need to be tight).   Especially the pink screen–the freckles just had to land on the butt. 

I was really happy that the texture of Jose’s line (originally drawn in China marker) came through in the print.  The trick is printing with a high mesh count screen (230, in this case).

Rather than use cardstock for the cover, I used legal-size file folders, cut in half and trimmed down. I like the color of file folders, and I was able to find three boxes for cheap.  I’m not sure I’d recommend this method, though.   Even with access to CCS’s fancy industrial paper cutter, the cut was imperfect.  The resulting stack of paper was not perfectly sized, so the registration was off at times.  With tighter registration jobs, I recommend buying real cardstock, which is perfectly cut at the factory.

It can be difficult to find cardstock in a variety of colors larger than 8.5″ x 11″.  The best place to go is French Paper.  They have a great variety of paper sized at 12.5″ x 19″.  Their paper is pricey, but the quality is high.  Contact them and request a swatch book to insure you order the right color, texture and weight.

Paperworks is also a good source for legal- and  tabloid-size cardstock.  However, it can be tricky to judge the color, texture and weight based on their website. 

Now, let’s open her up!

 

On the reserve side of the screenprint is the amazing inner cover by Maris Wicks.  This is a photocopy–screenprinting this sort of detail would be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible.  Choose your battles, my friend.

Maris used halftones here.  To avoid moiré patterns, print images like this at size.  To be honest, I think I did re-size this a little.  If there is a slight moiré, it wasn’t very noticeable.

A heavy layer of toner is on this cardstock, and it doesn’t adhere well.  After printing the inner cover, I spayed each one with workable fixative.  I think this helped preserve the print.  It’s not a prefect fix–toner will come off if you rub it aggressively.

You’ll notice that the inner cover is a foldout, with the book nestled inside.  The left hand (verso) cover is 4.5″ wide; the right hand (recto) cover 8.5″ wide.  With a one-sided French fold, the covers are symmetrical when the book is folded and closed.

Here’s the inner spread, by the remarkable Jason Martin.  Jason’s piece has a 2-page spread, so I placed it in the middle of the book and built around it.  It was a bit of a challenge, but I think the book is well-balanced.  Joe Lambert’s comic has some great page-turns. I was able to keep those.

As an editor, I  consider a story’s content and visual style when placing it in the book.  You don’t want one portion of the book to be too heavy with auto-bio, for example.  Regarding style, I just put pages next to one another and decide what looks good.

You might have noticed this book is pretty thick: 80 pages, to be exact.  I was able to bind it with a standard longarm stapler, but I was pushing it.  Much thicker and I would need a heavy-duty saddle stapler.  CCS has such a beast: the Skebbra W-115.  I challenge you to find a better manual saddle stitch stapler.  Such quality comes at a price (around $170).

The endpaper is made of Chocolate Brown text paper from Jam Paper.  Jam Paper has quality and selection, but they are unreasonably pricey.

The interior paper is Ivory text.  I rarely print on white.  Ivory is so classy, and it goes with everything!

I printed the interiors at SaveMor in Brooklyn, and I’m pleased with the quality and the price.  To avoid any loss of line quality, I disabled compression when outputting my InDesign file to a PDF.  It made the file huge (about 300 megs) but it’s worth it.  SaveMor only grumbled slightly.

Last but not least, the final page.  This concept comes from the talented Melissa Mendes.  Melissa gave these body templates to friends, and asked them to draw their insides.  The results were very unique and personal.  Melissa published them in a zine titled Guts.  It’s one of my favorites.

The body template is simply printed 6-up on white cardstock, then trimmed.  The pocket is made from an envelope with the flap cut off, and adhered with double-sided tape.  These small, square, Kraft paper envelopes came from Jam Paper.  They’re pretty expensive, so I was tempted to use library pockets instead.  But I really like their look and their size.

All these little details add up in cost (and double in labor) so the book retails at $7.00.  But that covers production cost (even at wholesale).  And it falls within a pricing rule I’ve heard from two great cartoonists: Alec Longstreth and Jon Lewis.  For every page of your comic, charge $.10 .

There you have it!  Make, cover to cover.  I hope I haven’t drained all the magic from it.  The book is a lot prettier in person.

– Robyn Chapman

Fantagraphics Ain’t Throwing Just Peanuts

A box arrived at the Schulz Graphic Novel Library with a dizzying amount of books, so heavy that I blacked out and began to see dazzling images.

And then it all started to come into focus…

It was PEANUTS! Charles Schulz, the man our illustrious library is named after, is still garnering a space in our hearts AND bookshelves. Fantagraphics has almost finished printing the entire, complete Peanuts collection. These wonderful tomes filled that heavy box.

As you can see, even the box of books came with some ‘peanuts.’ Our shelf dedicated to the man and books is slowly spilling over in abudance. If you have yet to check out these beautiful books, with Seth as the designer, then you have yet to truly live.

Jen Vaughn

P.S. Let’s just call those flat things ‘momes’ from now on for good measure.

CCS at SPX: The One Sheet Workshop

Since we opened our doors in 2005, CCS has made the annual trek to Bethesda for one of our favorite conventions: The Small Press Expo.  This year we offered a 1-hour session on self-publishing called the One Sheet Workshop.  In only 30 minutes, over a hundred participants drew, folded, and bound their own 8-page comic.  Their only materials were a pencil and a single sheet of paper.  Sound like magic?  It is, and we’ll show you the trick!

First, Alec Longstreth shared his top 10 tips for self-publishing.  

Then, Jon Chad walked us, step-by-step, through the process of making a Hidden Book.  

The Hidden Book format is produced from a single sheet of paper–no trimming or binding is required.  How is this possible?  We asked book-binding guru Beth Hetland to illustrate a how-to.  Here are the basic steps from her handout.


There you go!  Lie it flat and slap it on a photocopier.  Now you’re self-publishing!

– Robyn Chapman

Softball Sunday!

New Student Orientation at the Center for Cartoon Studies took place this past weekend and we could not be more excited for a whole new class (herd? murder? panel?) of cartoonists.

Aside from learning how to not cut your hands off with our giant paper cutter and how to properly pay for color copies, students both new and returning were asked to join in on the alum-sponsored softball game. (Jon Chad is at bat while Michelle Ollie pitches to Andy Christensen).

School founders James Sturm and Michelle Ollie both have backgrounds in baseball and softball so logically, they headed up the two teams, the Nancys vs. the Little Lulus. (Below, Sturm aggressively stands at the sidelines as third base coach while Nomi Kane and Randall Drew ready themselves for a whopper.)

The game was pretty loose, batting through entire line-ups but that didn’t mean the cartoonists didn’t BRING IT. With a bunch of home runs, line drives and even a double-play, we proved we can play betwixt all sorts of lines, be they panels or the foul lines. (Below, Nate Wootters is about to tag out Brandon Elston, Melanie Gillman watches)

As supreme thanks for all that they do for the cartooning community we gave James the Game Ball and Michelle the Official CCS Batting Helmet complete with student work stickers (more to come!)

The only thing left to do is invite the Kubert School out for some softball and corn dogs. So how about it, guys, are you game?

-Jen Vaughn