PCS September: Side B

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!

PCS: September – Side A

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.

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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?

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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.

A 2014 Recap in 2015

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.

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As I type this I’m settled in Pittsburgh, I live and work here again. But something big happened before I moved back.

Picture 4I got my MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies!
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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.
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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.

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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. 

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Since I’ve been back I’ve been up to a lot of things.

Jenn and I have been spending time with sweet, sweet pups.
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We’ve been going to a couple of little comics expositions.

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Pulling Screens.

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Printing Covers!

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We even got a chance to go back to Assemble to facilitate another comics making Crafternoon!

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I released another issue of Dog City with Luke Healy and Simon Reinhardt. Without a doubt our best one yet! Thinking about this issue just brings a tear to my eye…

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I’m so proud of everyone’s work in this box. It has been an honor to bring this work into the world.

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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!

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I started organizing the Pittsburgh comics salon with Frank Santoro.

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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.

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Jenn and I went to Cleveland and sold comics at Ghengiscon, Cleveland’s underground comics show. I was so happy that we got to be side by side. Sales were great and the energy was amazing. 1503347_750084031751368_5128615598532818946_n
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So, it’s been 8 months what are we up to now round these parts?

Picture 9Well, 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?

Dog City gets Interviewed!

A couple of weeks ago, Carl Antonowicz who writes for the Schulz Library Blog sat down with me and the Dog City boys to chat about what we’ve published in the past year as Dog City Press. The interview is now up on the blog. We talk about the editorial process, our philosophies and our aims for the future.

Read the Interview here!

If you want to learn more about what we’ve been up to, this is as good a time as any!

Big ups to Carl for taking the time to interview us about this. It means so much!

July: Wottamonth!

julybannerHot dog. July’s been a busy month in Pittsburgh!

Although I haven’t had much time to be making and publishing my own work,  I’ve been knee deep in comics, while soaking up the summer in Pittsburgh.

Aside from organizing the Little Book Fair and assembling an all-star crew of cartoonists for another exciting Dog City Press endeavor, I’ve been teaching all over the city of Pittsburgh.

Two highlights of this month have been being a part of the Computing Workshop‘s summer staff  and working with the incredible, education super-stars, Mary Hart and Paula Levin.

Mary Hart’s Computing Workshop, located in Squirrel Hill, provides educational opportunities for students and adults on the autistic spectrum or with other differences or obstacles to success in traditional school settings. The CW offers adapted instruction across the curriculum, with particular emphasis on computing, technology, and the arts, along with social and communication skills, in a safe and supportive setting. I’ve been involved with the Computing Workshop for three years now and every summer it’s only gotten better.

Besides teaching comics, reading and programming at the Computing Workshop, I’ve been hopping across the city of Pittsburgh teaching comics workshops thanks to Paula Levin’s Literary Arts Boom program. If you don’t know anything about Paula Levin’s Literary Arts Boom [The LAB] here in Pittsburgh, I suggest you read this nice little write up by Marty Levine on Pop City Media.

The LAB offers free out-of-school programming to Pittsburgh youth, ages 6-18. Students practice and improve their inquiry and writing skills in a safe and unique space by participating in project-based workshops that incorporate art, technology, and communication. Mentorship and creativity inspire students to pursue their interests, find their voices, and tell their stories.

The LAB provides a space for collaboration, innovation and community engagement among youth, adults, and organizations focused on kids and creativity. Individuals, ranging from authors to zoologists, can share their talents, passion, and wisdom with local youth.

Paula, The LAB’s “head experimentalist” is focused building a culture of reading, writing, and creativity in Pittsburgh, giving youth the tools, support and resources necessary to bloom into critical minded and inspired thinkers.

Given the great divides that exist across the American public education system, it’s a real honor to be involved with a program as vibrant and ambitious as the LAB.

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Photograph by Alessandra Hartkopf

Awesome Sound No. 001 & Modern Sketch

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My friend Sean Knickerbocker has just put out a new 3-color risograph 28 page comics ‘zine! It’s called AWESOME SOUND. This is the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful thing.

It features the work of 3 great cartoonists that I have the good fortune of knowing personally, DW, Dan Rinylo, and Sean K. himself. Oh, and I have a short little comic in there, too!

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If you’d like to pick up a copy, hop on over to Sean’s online shop. They’re just $5!

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Chinese opera character drawn by a child (Chen Keyan) for this 1935 cover.

In a more historical vein, I’d like to share with you an amazing cartooning resource that I came across recently, Modern Sketch. I recommend you take a moment to acquaint yourself with this classic Chinese cartooning and illustration magazine!

Published in Shanghai monthly from January 1934 to June 1937, Modern Sketch conveyed a range of political and social commentary through lively and sophisticated graphics. Topics included eroticized women, foreign aggression—particularly the rise of fascism in Europe and militarized Japan, domestic politics and exploitation, and modernity-at-large as envisioned through both the cosmopolitan “Modern Girl/Modern Boy” and the modernist grotesque.

I urge you to take a moment out of your day to read John A. Crespi’s essay “China’s Modern Sketch: The Golden Era of Cartoon Art, 1934-1937” at MIT Visualizing Cultures. There’s a lot to soak up.

Every issue can be seen in high resolution at Colgate Digital Collections. What a treat!

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Hu Kao, “Swimsuits of 1934” (issue 7, July 1934)

Crespi highlights a few comics of the era. Be sure to have a look!

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Jin Mo “Smoking,” “Quitting,” “After Quitting”

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Liao Bingxiong “A Wise Man” January 1936

Occupy Gezi – this is nuts – here are some resources

I normally don’t post non-comics related things, but this is important.

A helpful note my American friend shared. Her friend Hannah, who’s currently living in Istanbul wrote this:

Dear friends from afar,
Most of you have probably gotten wind of what’s going on in Turkey due to the explosion of international media coverage of the events of the past few days. For those of you who want to learn more and may not know where to start, I’ve consolidated a list of recommended readings/viewings, which you can find below. It’s so important that the international community stay informed about what’s happening in Turkey so we can find creative and effective ways to demonstrate our solidarity for the protesters here from near and far!
In love and solidarity,
Hannah

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
http://defnesumanblogs.com/2013/06/01/what-is-happenning-in-istanbul/
http://www.whatishappeninginistanbul.com/?p=124#more-124
-a very basic, helpful timeline with visual aids:http://howcanyousupportturkey.com/pictures-videos/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22749840
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/05/protests-show-turks-cant-tolerate-erdogan-anymore/276447/

LIVE UPDATES:
– Mashallah News has been keeping a really awesome liveblog of the Gezi Park Occupation here: http://mashallahnews.com/?p=10341. You can also find lots of other helpful links (background information, context etc.) on this site.
-Mashallah News has also compiled a list of people tweeting in (mostly) English about what’s going on here in Turkey (mostly Istanbul) here:https://twitter.com/MashallahNews/english-occupygezi
-You can follow Mashallah News here on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MashallahNews) or on twitter (https://twitter.com/MashallahNews). Can you tell I’m into them? I’m really into them.
-Follow the hashtags #direngeziparki, #occupygezi, and #occupytaksim on twitter (probably Instagram too)
-More facebook pages to check out: Ötekilerin Postası (https://www.facebook.com/OtekilerinPostasi), Occupy Istanbul (https://www.facebook.com/OccupyistanbulOccupygeziparki), and Diren Gezi Parkı (https://www.facebook.com/geziparkidirenisi)
-Want to know WHAT’S HAPPENING IN ISTANBUL? go tohttp://www.whatishappeninginistanbul.com/. That’s not so complicated.

IMAGES:
-Nar Photos is doing an UNBELIEVABLE job of collecting and disseminating images from the demonstrations in Istanbul.
-The #occupygezi tumblr is amazing: http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/

LONGER, MORE ANALYTICAL PIECES:
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/06/01/here_s_what_you_need_to_know_about_the_clashes_in_turkey?page=0%2C0
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/11978/the-right-to-the-city-movement-and-the-turkish-sum
http://muftah.org/why-the-gezi-park-protests-do-not-herald-a-turkish-spring-yet/

TAKE ACTION:
-Put pressure on Turkish media, which has been doing an AWFUL job of covering the recent events, by petitioning CNN International to pull it’s name franchise from CNN Turk: http://www.change.org/petitions/cnn-international-must-pull-its-name-franchise-from-cnn-turk#share
-For the amerikanski folks: I signed this White House petition…don’t really know how much it’ll help but it doesn’t hurt to try:https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/condemn-actions-taken-against-peaceful-protesters-istanbul-turkey/zDGtGCDZ
-Keep your eyes peeled for other online petitions (there are more)
-Call/email the Turkish embassy in your country to tell them how you feel about what’s happening here, how it might affect your decisions to travel to Turkey etc… Contact info here: http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkish-representations.en.mfa
-Reach out to the media: http://howcanyousupportturkey.com/take-action/
-Post articles, images, videos, feelings etc. about what’s happening in Turkey to your facebook walls etc.

FAŞİZME KARŞI OMUZ OMUZA // SHOULDER TO SHOULDER AGAINST FASCIM

Photos from the Carlboygenius tumblr.

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