This one is my Yo La Tengo comic on the shoulders of the poetry giant, Mary Oliver. The words are excerpted from her poem, Wild Geese.
Process post on this one to come soon. Lots of details to comment on this one! For now though, I’d like to simply share the comic.
If you’d like to support my work and have a special book, order a copy for yourself or a friend.
I Can See the Birds (Juan Fernandez) – 5.5″x8.5″ – Color & Risograph – $6 postpaid
I Can See the Birds (Juan Fernandez) – 5.5″x8.5″ – Color & Risograph – $6 postpaid
I worked this all out last August, but it never made it online! Here are some thoughts I had after reflecting on a series of library workshops that I did at several branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
I’d like to talk to you a little about doing comics workshops with teens. If you’re like me, you can sometimes get a little bottled up in your art practice. You find yourself in artistic ruts that you just can’t seem to get out of for weeks. You want to be writing, drawing, sequencing, but nothing comes…
One way that I’ve found to reinvigorate my personal art practice during times like that is to teach workshops with teens. In the longterm, working with their raw talents helps me to find new perspectives in my comics making practice. At the end of the day, they just want to have fun.
Whenever I organize activities for them and they aren’t excited to engage I take note. There’s something missing from the activity. Their lack of engagement is likely due to me not thinking about the activity in a holistic enough of a way. What is it missing? Is it a sense of purpose? Is it spontaneity? Is it too confusing? Is it too collaborative?
When I figure out what these essential elements are I often realize that they are missing from my regular comics making. Whether it’s blindly collaborating, drawing from life in silly ways, or just using color at every step of the way,I hop to it and do two things. First, I plan out new and improved lesson plans and then I start a new SHORT comics project that folds in that essential element.
With a little patience, the joy comes back to my comics and the classroom.
During the month of August I led a weekly comics workshop with Teens at several branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It was a blast.
As part of this months updates from the Salon, you’ve received a PDF copy of the zine that we collected highlights of our work in. It is called, The Cosmic Comics Lab. You can read our zine by downloading the attached PDF at the bottom of this page. It’s goofy, full of lots of energy and lots of learning by young comics makers from all over the city of Pittsburgh.
One of the activities that students enjoyed the most and lost themselves in was adapting songs they liked to the comics page. I got this idea from advice that Pittsburgh’s talented Sophie Goldstein gave to comics makers online:
I really want to tell stories with my art but I’m having trouble getting started. Can you give me some advice about how you start a comic?
I would suggest starting small with a one to six-page story. A lot of cartoonists begin by doing autobio comics but really you can do anything with comics–movie reviews, journalism, fairytale adaptations, &c. I think adaptations can be really great because the story is worked out and you can focus on the mechanics of storytelling.
Students often struggle when they are asked to come up with an idea for a story that will work on a single or a couple of pages out of the blue. Her advice got some wheels turning in my head and I was inspired to have teens use songs as jumping off points for their comics. Working in this way, we could focus on the mechanics of comics communication.
We printed out the lyrics of the songs and then figured out what sections of the songs would make for good comics pages. The song functioned as a loose script that they could fall back on when they felt a little lost. It wasn’t a tight narrative script, though, which meant that they could do ANYTHING with their panels so long as they found ways to fold the images around the song.
Because the students got to choose the songs they worked on they felt invested in the process and wanted to see the comics to completion.
Here are some glimpses at their processes
I will be leading more comics workshops this Summer, in libraries and DAILY at a summer camp. Who knows what we’ll get up to!
Daunted and Freed by the Script
Every month I’ve been putting together a recap of the Comics Salon happenings for supporters of the Comics Salon Patreon. I’d like to start sharing those thoughts here with you. Let me know what you think, comes to mind while you read in the comments. If you’d like to support the ongoing efforts of the Pittsburgh Comics Salon, take a look at the Patreon page I’ve set up. Be a patron of the arts in Pittsburgh, whydontcha?
The goal of the salon is to build solidarity, get new conversations started between cartoonists and comics makers in the area and to push the frontiers of comics making in an intimate and welcoming setting here in Pittsburgh, PA.
August saw Allison Strejlau, take the floor to lead an exercise in the handling of translating a tight comedy script to rough pencils. Allison has been the series illustrator for Boom!Studios‘ Regular Show comics and illustrates for Papercutz’ Nickelodeon Magazine Breadwinners series, and has had work with the Adventure Time and Uncle Grandpa comics from KaBoom!Studios. Oof, has she got comedy and narrative chops! The idea here was to give local comics makers a very structured comics prompt where they were primarily encouraged to flex their visual sequencing muscle.
The structure that one usually gets when working a work-for-hire artist can be daunting and hard to describe. Nevertheless for some cartoonists this can be an extremely freeing comics making opportunity. The “what” of the comic is already determined by the writers. The comics maker then gets to focus exclusively on the “how” of the comic. We wanted the Salon to have experience with this mode of creation.
The page that was handled happened to be the page that Allison had to draw when she applied to the open call to be the main artist on the series for BOOM! Comics.
Allison explained the demeanors of the characters Rigby and Muscle Man but did not give away what the characters looked like in the series. As a result, the characters look similar, but vastly different from page to page. It was funny to see everyone’s reaction when Allison revealed that Rigby was a racoon!
The nuts and bolts of this exercise revolved around how the panels would sit on the comics page. How many panels in the first tier? How about the second and third tiers? Seven panels on a page provided an interesting challenge in that it asked the tiers of the page to have unequal numbers of panels. The meter of the page would therefore have to deal with that AND be sure to provide a good rhythm for the visual gags.
This was Allison’s final page. For BOOM!
Be sure to compare the convergences between the pages made during the Salon and Allison’s inks. Take note of where comics makers put the three tiers and which tiers they clumped together. What effect does that have on the reading experience? What differences do you notice from comic to comic?
Needless to say, a great time was had.
P.S. Check out these pages made with children using the same script. The children who made these pages were aware of what the characters looked like.
I’ve been exploring animating comics. I’m above all in making comics that encourage the viewer to “read” animations. GIFs in comics tend to be a novelty, a background texture. These thoughts are rough. I’d love to hear what any one reading this has to say about the intersection of animation and comics.
Instead of seeing animations in that way in comics, I want people to see the arrranging of animations as a practice where the animation is an essential part how meaning arises from the sequence. As comics makers we get to be architects of time and space. I’m trying to figure out how this kind of sequencing fits into that architecture.
For example: Reading these sequences feel SIGNIFICANTLY different to me. (Click to enlarge for best experience).
My big concern is that I want people to be reading animations as “words”. (I hope to find a better way of describing this). The animations that I put together occupy a physical space on the screen and their physical relationship to each other affects the way that those “words” are read. In video there is an ever forward moving timeline. By juxtaposing looping video sequences you can embed those timelines into a larger timeline.
Embedding these animations in the grid frameworks conventionally used in comics, that larger timeline can be interacted with by a viewer along the conventionalized reading hierarchies of a given culture. That seems really cool and novel. It’s exciting to me and is the reason why I’ve been making these sequences.
I hope that these comics can expand the 1-dimensional timeline into a 2-dimensional plane where there are co-existing timelines.
(The idea of having gifs sitting side by side with unequal numbers of frames is an interesting idea to me when mixed with the idea of percieved timelines.)
These are my recent animation collage experiments. This is how I’ve been playing around with this. Some are way more successful than others at playing around with this time-space idea!
(my suggested reading practice for these comics is to move through them slowly.)
At the moment I’m trying to build a visual language out of repeating really simple marks. Nothing fancy here, it’s just important for me to note that I’m being intentional about it and that I’m trying to create newer and larger structures of communication with very simple lines. Many people know that I tend to draw intuitively. This is me trying to build on that intuition.
De momento estoy intentando de crear series de imagenes que crean su propio idioma visual.
Let me tell you, Jenn and I are keeping busy. We’ve got some new books in the works that we’re really excited to be bringing into the world at the end of March at PIX, the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo.
One will be a collection of Jenn’s diary comics from this January and February. She’s been working hard and I can’t wait for everyone to see where she’s taking these diary comics. I think they’re going to strike a really beautiful nerve with some people. Hope on over to her site to get a taste of some of her older comics!
Jenn also has a collection of comics and doodles that she’s made over the past year and a half that are full of color and experimentation. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes. I’m excited about the production that we’ll be doing on this one. Jenn is hoping to make a facsimile notebook. Maybe we can even sew the book as a single signature!
I’m going to be putting together my first book of the year! It’s going to be black ink printed on a bunch of different sheets of paper. I hope to make it a reading experiences that lifts the spirits and stays in your memory for a while! I’ve been soaking up the colorful zines that Monica and Souther Salazar have made over the years.
The energy in those books is so refreshing and inspiring. I hope my little book comes close to making you feel that good! It’s going to be silly and experimental and fun.
Here’s a peek at a book design I’ve been playing around with:
We’re also working on putting together an online store of Jenn’s books. You’ll soon be able to get your hands on them if you don’t live in Pittsburgh! More on that soon. For now, I’ve finished my day’s research, went to a teaching training and think it’s about time I put on my headphones to doodle…
dear diary, I want to fill you in on what’s happened since the last time we talked.
I moved back to Pittsburgh to be by Jenn’s side. We’ve been making lots of little books and spending lots of time together.
As I type this I’m settled in Pittsburgh, I live and work here again. But something big happened before I moved back.
That’s right, I finished my studies at the Center for Cartoon Studies with this fine crew of cartoonists.
Aaron Shrewsbury, Simon Reinhardt, Ben Evans, Josh Lees, Eleri Harris, Allison Banister, Will Payne, Mathew New, Tom O’Brien, Ben Gowen, Steven Krall, Luke Healy and Sara Sarmiento. (Not picture, but adored : Iris Yan)
So how did I graduate? My studies culminated in what you see below.
I challenged myself to make a book every month. and wouldn’t you know it from November through the month of May I churned 6 books. Every month I explored different terrain, but for the most part I held on tight to the 4 panel grid. I wanted to use my time at CCS to learn my comics scales. I wanted to learn first hand how rich a world of comics I could create on my own with only four panels. I’m really proud of the result. (I built 12 of these little drawer boxes.)
These comics ended up being ruminations on love, fantasy, and moments both big and small. I collaged, watercolored, doodled, and digital painted my way to my deadlines. I was hoping to create a work situation where I could blend playful experimentation with a committed publication schedule. I feel I succeeded in that.
The time at CCS was balanced between my thesis, two part time jobs and lots and lots of talking to Jenn over the phone. I missed her. I was extremely focused, but it’ll come as no surprise that by March I was getting worn down. A monthly deadline is nothing to sneeze. It can drain you. When my spirits were low I had friends and family that blew rejuvenating winds in my sails. I couldn’t have done this without you.
Since I’ve been back I’ve been up to a lot of things.
We’ve been going to a couple of little comics expositions.
We even got a chance to go back to Assemble to facilitate another comics making Crafternoon!
I’m so proud of everyone’s work in this box. It has been an honor to bring this work into the world.
We brought this issue into the world in style by celebrating its release at Copacetic Comics, along with the release of the third issue of Maple Key Comics!
I started organizing the Pittsburgh comics salon with Frank Santoro.
We meet up every month to do drawing and comics sequencing exercises, catch up with each others’ comics making, share what we’re reading/watching and drink hearty amounts of coffee. The goal of these salons is to help build solidarity across Pittsburgh’s fertile comics making community. I want to make a welcoming space where experimentation and playfulness in comics making are encouraged and fostered.
So, it’s been 8 months what are we up to now round these parts?
Well, I’m transitioning into new work teaching in the city. I’m focusing on linguistic explorations of visual language, using comics as the basis for those studies, soaking up all the work of Neil Cohn, planning some book making projects for PIX, the Pittsburgh Indy Comics Expo, traveling back and forth between Ohio and Pennsylvania to see my family and staying cozy by Jenn’s side.
That’s about it for now.
How about you, what are you up to?