The second and last day of TCAF was on Sunday. I went downtown on the bus and arrived, forgetting that the library opened at 11:00 on Sundays and I would have to wait. Many events were in venues nearby, outside the library, though; at 11:30 I went to a nearby restaurant, Ristorante Fortuna, to take in Jeff Smith demonstrating his drawing and inking skills. Jeff Smith is the creator of Bone and Rasl.
What struck me about his demonstration was the simplicity of his tools. Paper. Blue pencil. Sharpener. Ink. Brush. Apart from the paper, there was nothing you can’t carry in a small case. Of course, later on, things get scanned and coloured and assembled into books in the computer.
Other people draw directly into the computer. Autodesk had a demonstration of their Sketchbook Pro software, running on systems that had Wacom Cintiq monitors attached. These are the (expensive) monitors that are also drawing tablets; you fire up your software and draw right there on the screen. It’s a lot more immediate than drawing on a tablet at the side and seeing the pointer move on a regular screen in front of you. But there’s still a gap between the point of the stylus and where the drawing is occurring in the software. I think I could get used to it though.
For me now though, it’s draw, ink, scan, and colour. Old school.
Later on, I took in a panel discussion about crowdfunding. I’d originally thought of crowdfunding as a way to solicit donations, but since crowdfunders tend to provide perks for various levels of funding, the panelists were regarding it as a kind of pre-order system. It’s clear that I’d have to do a LOT more planning before attempting it.
Then I attended a panel dicussion about “the future of comics”. This developed into quite an interesting discussion about different distribution arrangements and how the rise of self-publishing and the internet has basically knocked the props out from the old traditional distribution modfel. There was little mention of ebooks though. Perhaps that is something that Hasn’t Quite Happened yet in the comics world.
I didn’t buy much at the show. I got a print for $5 in a style I liked. I found that many of the comics were in drawing styles I wasn’t particularly fond of, seeming to me ‘primitive’ and even grotesque. Much of the works there were rather dark, and I tend to look for light, colourful work. I’ve enough darkness already, thanks.
I missed a lot, some of it unavoidable (please try not to schedule three things I want to see at the same time next time, okay?) Many of the presenters were people of roughly my age, who’d been trying to do this as a living since they left high school. It really makes me wonder what my life would have been like if I’d taken that other road after high school. But it’s never too soon to start…
At TCAF, I went to an excellent presentation by Michael Cho: “The Realities of Being a Comics Professional”, in which he discussed arouse aspects of the working life of a illustrator.
Michael spoke of what it’s like to start out; social connection and memory as you meet and work with people and pass on to different jobs; portfolio sites; advertising; and, most importantly: the necessity of following your artistic heart. You don’t want to discover after years of toil that you’ve been following others’ visions instead of honing your own vision.
I wish i’d heard his talk when I was 17 and deciding whether to go to OCAD after high school; I think I might have made a few decisions differently…
But it applies to everyone, really, no matter their age. We are always starting out anew in every moment.
Well, here I am at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It’s big, it’s crowded, it’s overflowing my brain. I’ve basically cruised around the displays and vendors’ booths, but haven’t come to any conclusions yet. Most of the presentations I want to see are a little later on or on Sunday. There’s a life-drawing event at 5:30 (at least, I think that’s what it is…) I got some glimpses of others’ sletchbooks and portfolios, showing evidence of how they actually made their drawings, and that was very interesting.
I think I need to download my brain into my sketchbook.
Saturday 5 May and Sunday 6 May, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival takes place at and around the Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor in Toronto. I’m taking the early bus in and staying all day…
I’m continuing my search for information relating to training for ebook development. So far, I have not found an actual course in the Toronto area specifically for ebook development. However, I have found that ebook-creation skills–especially those required for ePub 3–overlap strongly with the skills required for web programming. This makes sense; ebooks are essentially collections of web pages, bundled together in a defined format with their linked images and fonts and a few other things to provide navigation.
I came up with a diagram showing different skill sets required for technical writing, web development, and ebook development:
Unless I can find a college program specifically for ebook development, I’ll be applying to programs for web development, since I can use the skills at top centre for both ebooks development and web development.
This does not mean, of course, that I won’t be looking to learn such things on my own. There are all sorts of resources on the web. But part of classroom instruction is meeting people and making contacts. I am now convinced that such social contacts are as important as raw book learning when you are taking courses.
I’m in the middle of transferring my domain names and site to a new hosting provider. The sunspace.org domain name was released from the old registrar this morning; now I can get to WordPress on the new provider and start setting things up. I have a lot of old non-WordPress content that I made in Dreamweaver, Netscape, Notepad, etc (some of it goes back to 1998!), which I may transfer into WordPress, but until that time, it will be temporarily unavailable.
In my search for epub info, I found a great page from IBM DeveloperWorks: Create rich-layout publications in EPUB 3 with HTML5, CSS3, and MathML. Lots of details, links, downloadable examples, all sorts of things. I’m getting excited about this.
I went downtown recently and visited The Beguiling, Toronto’s legendary comic shop. Inside it was the same as I remembered: cluttered and filled with shelves groaning with more comics than most countries have–absolutely wonderful, in other words. I could feel my brain relaxing amidst the drawings. This was where I needed to be.
But why wasn’t I there before? Why hadn’t I finished a comic before? I’ve always drawn, as long as I can remember. I took notes in comics in high-school chemistry, and I somehow need to make a picture in my head before I truly understand things. (Fortunately, this often seems to happen automatically in response to verbal description…)
When I was graduating from high school, Mom suggested that I go to the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD U) . I was split between going there to study art, and going to Waterloo University to study architecture.
Ultimately I went to Waterloo, in part because I could imagine how architects could make money, but I had no idea how artists could make money. I mean, I knew both sold drawings, but there was a social aspect to being a working artist that I knew I didn’t comprehend–galleries and promotion and all that. Whereas with architecture, I thought that the problems, and the path to success by solving them, was much clearer. People needed a building to solve a problem, it needs to be so big and go here, we have this much money, what can you do? And I was interested in both ecological design and drawing, so it seemed a toss-up from that viewpoint.
However, I didn’t last in architecture school. Ultimately, I left, switched to electronics, and graduated from that. And then spent 25 years working in the computer industry. I started out building computers, but ended up writing about them, as a technical writer. But all the time, art and architecture remained alongside me. I drew pictures and helped out on solar-powered houses. All through this time, drawing and solar-powered architecture appeared equally (and equally far-fetched) as possibilities.
Then I got laid off from electronics. I got involved with ecological design, but this didn’t last.
The way was now open. While I looked for other work, there was nothing to stop me from devoting myself to drawing and comics. For the first time in years, I don’t have things in my mind competing on a large scale for attention. I can devote myself to learning to draw better. And this has started to pay off; I recently finished a comic, the first one I’ve actually completed.
Another thread of the change involves people. In high school and before, and even afterwards, I drew machines and landscapes, but very few people. As part of an earlier attenpt at career change, I went to Sheridan College to study classical animation, and was told that animation is basically acting on paper. I didn’t last there either.
However, during these years and afterwards, I was gradually learning to be more sociable. And now as a result of that, I’m gradually starting to really understand what it means to ‘act on paper’. It’s not just knowing the structure of the body; it’s being able to use gesture and form to suggest the emotion of the people in the drawings. Will Eisner and many others allude to this in drawing books. And in figure drawing class, we always had to loosen up using gesture drawing to get the ‘feel’ of things.
I think that I’m finally starting to understand the necessity for tbis, and now I stand at the beginning of another road, that of the artistic study of human interaction.
So now I have no distractions. All the ebook stuff I am learning–and the job search itself–is just part of the vehicle for my art. And I can dig out all the old ideas in my sketchbooks and start making them into reality…