Halloween ComicFest 2017!

Wow, I've been a little absent these last few weeks, haven't I? I have tons of blog posts planned, but have found myself a little, um... busy. I recently started a new in-studio job (the art test I had to do for it was referenced in my work-cation post, details to come later).

So, in the meantime... Halloween has come and gone, and with it-- Halloween ComicFest! I'm super excited because that means not only do I have comp copies in my grubby little hands, but I can also share my pages with you! So without further ado, here they are!

The Cover! By Simone Di Meo-- and perfection, b/c there's a Stranger Things 2 ad on the back!

The Cover! By Simone Di Meo-- and perfection, b/c there's a Stranger Things 2 ad on the back!

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Two of the pages in action, with letters!

Two of the pages in action, with letters!

PBJ.LA - Peanut BETTER and Jelly

So by now if you've been following my "adventures in food" series, you'll know that I can't shut up about Grand Central Market. It's weird, fun, hip (maybe a touch hipster), but also brings all walks of the community together. AND! The food! The food is amazing!

It won't be any surprise then that this post is once again about something at GCM. Today's subject is the sleek, ultra fancy-looking PBJ.LA! I know what you're thinking, "Wait doesn't that look like (rhymes with fun-bust-ables)?"

Sure, it may LOOK like that unnamed item from the freezer section that you ate as a kid (or as an adult, I don't judge), but the roundness and crimped edges is where the similarities end.

Enter, the Chocolate Haze.

Enter, the Chocolate Haze.

When I first spied PBJ.LA, I was impressed with their exceptionally slick branding. Fancy logo, purple lights, and white, glossy walls-- it's the works. As a freelance artist, I understand how important branding is, and these. guys. NAILED. IT.

So what do they have to eat? You guessed it-- peanut butter and jelly sammiches! But not just any regular ol' PBJs, these are made fresh from scratch with organic, non-GMO ingredients, and everything except for one item is plant-based. That one item is an optional add-on, and it's a buffalo smoked mozzarella (but there is a vegan cheese option!). Everything is pinched into a cheerful circle, and there's just something intensely satisfying about that to me.

I had already eaten dinner when I approached their stall, so I went straight to the dessert option they had: the Chocolate Haze. It's a house-made chocolate hazelnut spread paired with dark cherry chianti jam. The bread was fluffy, and insides delightfully gooey.

Look at the hazelnut yums seeping through!

Look at the hazelnut yums seeping through!

Instead of the sugar explosion I was expecting (as a lover of Nutella), I was pleasantly surprised to find that their hazelnut spread didn't scream of sweetness. My taste-expedition was complicated, deep, and very flavorful. It included a slightly bitter note of cocoa, the hum of hazelnut, and a mild sweetness from the jam. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this round sandwich knocked my socks off! I immediately wanted to try everything on the menu, but sadly didn't have enough room in my stomach.

And of course, when you eat PBJ, what do you also want? Milk! I can't have regular cow's milk anymore, so I was in luck... their other major offering is an Almond Milk bar. They have Vanilla Almond, Strawberry, Cafe au Lait, and of course the one I tried: Peruvian Cacao. The flavor of the milk was deep, rich, and chocolately-- but again without overwhelming sugar. It made me SO happy to drink.

My experience there was super nice. I met two of the founders, Payvand and Jimmy, and they were open, honest, and really enthusiastic about talking to customers. I love their friendly manner and willingness to answer questions. I was of course concerned about what they do with the discarded crusts-- and it turns out they're developing another great product that will come with your sandwich so nothing is wasted!

Ooey gooey deliciousness...

Ooey gooey deliciousness...

Creating the accompanying illustration to this post was a challenge, as bread is such a delicate subject to render. I wanted to reflect the bright purples of their logo (I don't get to use that marker much in food illustration), but didn't want the shadows to be so cool that they looked moldy. I also wanted to reflect how light and fluffy this bread was without over rendering it-- cue me testing different yellow and brown markers for an hour before I even started!

Also, rendering their logo backward on the paper was a huge pain, but I feel like it added a great visual texture to the illustration.

Anyway, I can't wait to visit GCM again so I can try some of their other sandwiches and almond milks. PBJ.LA, watch out, I'll be back!

How to Make an Ashcan Comic

Are you a comic artist? Wanting to sell the artwork you create is a pretty natural step, especially if you're signed up to do an Artist Alley at a convention. But how to get your work out there? One fun DIY approach is to create what's known as an ashcan comic!

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but I'm covering the basics and have links for further information at the bottom!

Guilty Horse, an ashcan I created out of a personal challenge to draw an entire comic in ballpoint pen only.

Guilty Horse, an ashcan I created out of a personal challenge to draw an entire comic in ballpoint pen only.

What's an Ashcan?

According to Wikipedia, the roots of ashcan comics lie in creating quick prints used solely for copyrights that weren't intended for distribution (eg, "goes straight to the incinerator"). Also known as "zines," nowadays they are essentially mini comics, typically measuring 8.5" x 5.5". This is the most useful for doing small print runs, creating a collectible, or especially when an artist doesn't have a ton of printing money.

While I have seen them come in several different sizes, professionally printed, or even full color, traditionally they are black and white and stapled (lovingly) by hand. Their subject matter can vary wildly, up to and including non-comic ashcans with more illustrative or abstract approaches. I've even seen small prose books done this way! Illustrators, this applies to you too-- this method can also be used to create an artist sketchbook.

A fine example of an ashcan, Precipice, by Mom Comics! Check out the rest of her amazing work here!

Basically you can do whatever you want. Don't let anyone tell you how to live your life! I WON'T BE A PART OF YOUR SYSTE--. Ahem. Back to the topic at hand. 

Prep Work: Getting Your Comic Printed

When you're done drawing, scanning, and otherwise creating your artwork, you've got to prep the files for printing. A nice perk of an ashcan is that you can print four pages per US standard 8.5" x 11" paper sheet. This means two comic pages per side, printed on both sides. The less actual pieces of paper you have to print on, the lower your costs! If you have a nice enough printer and paper at home, you can print your book right from your desk... but if that isn't possible for one reason or another, local printers (or places like Staples or Kinkos) tend to only charge around $0.10 per side of B&W printing.

Laying the book out can be the toughest part to get right, since you have to think in terms of a folded book and how those pages stack together. To print Guilty Horse, this is how I laid out my pages:

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So the first two pages "12 & 1 and 2 & 11" are printed on the same sheet of paper flipped on the "short edge." This means that when the printer is finished printing page "12 & 1," it flips the paper over on the short side and prints "2 & 11" on the back. That makes sure that both pages are facing the same way, and that it'll all make sense when stacked together. This entire print job is only four pieces of paper!

Down ' n Dirty Printing Quick Guide:

-Make sure your files are at least 300 DPI, or your linework will be all fuzzy!
-Keep important parts of artwork and text away from the edges of your pages or they might get cut off on accident. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 1/4" gutters all around (and in the middle where you'll be stapling, too!), and have your text even further in, just in case.

See you on the "flip side." Haha, printing jokes.

See you on the "flip side." Haha, printing jokes.

If you have the budget, one fun thing I like to do is get my cover printed separately on colored cardstock. Preferably neon, so it stands out! It also gives the ashcan a higher quality and durability.

I asked the FedEx dude for "the most retina burning cardstock they had."

I asked the FedEx dude for "the most retina burning cardstock they had."

Assembling the Comic

Now that you're all printed up, hopefully your pages make sense when stacked in order. When I want to make sure I've done it right, I pinch it gently in the middle and thumb through it to make sure.

Gently bend the pages in half to "score" the edges-- basically you're marking where you'll put your permanent fold later on. If you want a neater line, or if you have a ton of pages, you can also do a light indent with an x-acto blade.

Slightly scored papers gives you a good target for where to aim your staples!

Slightly scored papers gives you a good target for where to aim your staples!

You're gonna need a longarm stapler to get all the way to the center of the pages without bending them. If you don't have one, a friend (or your local library) might have one you can borrow. If you think you'll be doing a lot of these, I bought mine for $20 on Amazon (this is an affiliate link, if you buy the thing, I get a kickback. Yay!) Two staples ought to do ya!

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Now we'll make your final fold-- use a flat edge to get it nice and crisp. I'm using a paddle used in applying screen tones, (another affiliate link!) but you could also use a butter knife or ruler. I just like the beveled edges of the tone paddle, as it won't put hard marks on the paper edges.

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If you have lots of pages, you may notice that the edges of your papers begin to jut out. Not to fear though, this is fixable. You can use an X-acto to trim the extra paper off, and it'll boost the craftsmanship and quality of your book. Aren't you glad you didn't put your artwork too close to the edge, now?

Hooray, you've made your book! Now you just have to repeat the folding, stapling, and cutting about 50 more times to stock up. I recommend putting on your favorite music or podcast to help pass the time (cuz uh... this will take awhile...)

So that's that! With a bit of trial and error, soon your artist alley table will have an entire library of your comics. If you have made an ashcan, please feel free to show it to me in the comments below! I'd love to see it.

Additional Resources

More in depth information on creating your own ashcan: http://www.artofdawn.com/blog/how-to-make-an-ashcan-comic/

A guide to printing comics that I can't recommend enough (not an affiliate link)! https://ironcircus.com/shop/ebooks/72-let-s-print-a-comic-pdf-ebook.html

Newsletter!

Hey guys, did you know I release a weekly newsletter? Did you also know that I offer fun and exclusive stuff to my subscribers? Today's newsletter has a link to read and download Guilty Horse, so make sure you sign up so you won't miss more fun stuff like this! I promise I won't spam you... unless you count A+ puns to be spam.

Review of Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi from The Grand Geek Gathering Podcast

Don't you love it-- I tell you to start watching my Instagram Stories and them promptly stop updating both them and my blog, too? Fear not, I'm not dead! I went on a scheduled vacation up in rural Oregon where I didn't have much in the way of cell service or internet. Actually, it ended up turning into a roller coaster of a work-cation, but that's a story for another day.

I may have had to work, but at least this was my surrounding scenery!

I may have had to work, but at least this was my surrounding scenery!

But I'm back. Huzzah! Half a day was spent fighting through my extremely backed up inbox, but I'm now back at work, back at Instagram Stories, and of course, back to the blog.

These guys are the best. Seriously, they've got a lil' something for everyone!

These guys are the best. Seriously, they've got a lil' something for everyone!

I'm really excited to share both a review and an interview about my comic series Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi from the one and only Grand Geek Gathering podcast!

"The Grand Geek Gathering is a multimedia network dedicated to celebrating the geeky things we love that make us who we are. Every Gatherer has different interests, passions, and traditions. We love that. As you get to know us on the Gathering podcast, we do not hesitate to share those passions and interests (or shove it down your throat)."

They also have do videos, livestreams, and a slew of other things. I was really pleased and humbled to be the subject of both episodes 66 and 67 of their show "IndiComix."

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Episode 66 features an interview I did with Tyler, where we chat about Guardian Corgi, its influences, my inspirations, and a closer look at my process behind creating my comics. He's such a blast to talk to, so there's not a boring moment! (Approx 30 min)

Interview with IndiComix about Guardian Corgi


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Episode 67 is a fantastic in-depth, round table review of all three issues of Guardian Corgi! Tyler and Jeff covered their thoughts on my writing, jokes (they lived through the puns, hah!), art style, character design, and the colors.

They had delightfully nice things to say, including that they felt the fun, bright colors, and simplicity of the series made it very accessible and a different voice in the current indie comics industry. I was extremely pleased to hear that, as I aim to make my stories a fun experience for anyone-- comics fans or not!

Roundtable Review of Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi

Thank you for all the kind words, GGG!

Get Behind the Scenes With My Instagram Stories

Do you follow me on Instagram? Yes? Hooray, thank you! I hope you enjoy my posts there. I like posting in-progress shots of my work, pictures of me at conventions, and pics with my art buddies.

BUT.

There's more that you might be missing!

Instagram has a cool feature I've been playing with called "Stories." Much like the famed Snapchat, Stories lets me build a little fun narrative. They're usually snapshots or tiny videos of what I get up to throughout the day that give you an extra special behind-the-scenes peek.

You can get quality humor like this!

You can get quality humor like this!

And amusing, melting self portraits like this!

And amusing, melting self portraits like this!

And don't forget great snaps of my Studio Assistant!

And don't forget great snaps of my Studio Assistant!

Bits and bobs about my process as I go...

Bits and bobs about my process as I go...

... and weird closeups of the tips of my markers!

... and weird closeups of the tips of my markers!

These stories constantly update throughout the day as I add to it, so you can see what weird art-related (and sometimes totally personal) shenanigans I get up to! Some days I post more than others, and I'm sure some days I won't post at all. These stories also disappear after 24 hours, so it's always immediate "right now" content... and you might be missing stuff if you don't check in daily (that's the scheme, see? Good thinking Instagram. I don't even want to talk about how much of my day I spend watching others' stories...)

Here's how to see 'em!

Here's how to see 'em!

So if you're on board, head to your Instagram app and check the top of your feed! There's a horizontal row of profile pictures with a little sunset-gradient circle around them. Those are all the people you follow whose Stories you might be missing! Alternatively, you can go to my profile and click on my pic (as seen above).

Hope you enjoy, and maybe it'll inspire you to try it for yourself, too! See ya there.

The Making of "Spotted!"

Please raise your hand if in your childhood you wished to discover and care for a secret magical creature of your own? *both of own hands in the air* Now keep your hand up if you wish for the same thing as an adult? No? Only me? C'mon there's gotta be at least some of you...

Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

I painted this about two months ago as an assignment Just For Myself (TM). Getting to work 100% for yourself is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. You can paint whatever you want! Also, you can... paint whatever you want... and you could easily get trapped because that gives you zero parameters and you'll self destruct in a never ending cycle of indecision.

Finally ended up on this-- a cover image for a faux middle grade novel I invented: a girl finds an injured pegasus and has to nurse it back to health. Unfortunately for her, she lives in the modern world which has no magic, so she has to go to extreme efforts to keep the thing hidden. Fun right? Definitely a story I would've gobbled up as a kid. And also now.

The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

So since this was Just For Myself (TM) and I had no deadline, I spent lots of extra time in the planning stages. As you can see, I did 9 different thumbnails to figure out my composition, but that does not count the other 20 or so I did to figure out what scene from my fake story I even wanted to show!  If you're imaginative, you can almost follow along with my thought process:

Okay so they're in a barn together, and I want to show them getting spotted because WHOA that's drama! Ok so first let's see them in a horse stall and see a shadowy figure at the barn's opening. Hmm, ok should the pegasus' wings be unfurled or hidden under a blanket? Hidden under a blanket might make storytelling hard because people won't know it's a pegasus. Unfurled sort of cuts the whole picture in half, especially with those beams in the middle... hmm ok let's take 'em out, switch 'em around... trying adding in foreground elements. Nope ok, none of this is working, let's try a different angle. What if we're looking at them from close to where the shadow figure is standing? Ok we're back to the wing thing again...

After I'd nailed down what composition I wanted, I did 7 more thumbnails for values, half of which required a more refined drawing. I wanted to try out different dramatic lighting schemes to see what told the story the best way. I also tried a tilted angle (sometimes known as Dutch Angle), but decided it looked like a slasher movie. Scree! Scree! Scree!

The final "rough"

The final "rough"

Then I went through 6 different color schemes before settling on my final "rough." I was ready to go! Well, except not really. I wanted to make sure the perspective on this piece was perfect. Yes, I COULD have done it by hand... but ain't nobody got time for that. So I busted out my ol' copy of SketchUp to model the interior of the barn. Once the model was done, I was able to finally do my pencil sketch on top of the entire thing to get it moving!

Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

It's at this point that I'd like to point out that I had a TON of help and feedback from what I call my Circle of Trust (thank you Oatley Academy for coining that phrase)! It's important to get outside feedback from trusted artist friends about how a piece is going... especially when there's no client. I showed every single step of my process to my Circle, because I wanted this piece to be the best it could be! Think of it as using sandpaper; outside opinions and fresh, well-trained eyes are necessary to smooth a piece out.

To my Circle: You know who you are since I was emailing you about 20x a week. Thank you! <3

"Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

"Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

So once I'd gone through all that, I inked the piece. I ended up electing not to ink the hay, as I wanted to achieve the texture through painting. I kept the figures on a different layer than the background, as later I knew I intended to do what's called a "color hold" aka colorizing the lines. You seen any 90s Disney movies? Then you know what I mean.

"Nighttime" flat colors

"Nighttime" flat colors

With this particular piece, I ended up using an approach that was a hybrid of how I do both comics and painting. I flatted the painting, which means I separated out all of the local colors of every object so I could render them later. When choosing my flat colors, I went with what everything would look like in the dark, and then paint in the light afterward!

Rough lighting pass

Rough lighting pass

Which is what this shot is here. You can see that the flat nighttime colors inform the shadows, but the "lights" make those colors make sense. Here I'd started rendering, the hay is starting to take shape... and you'll note that all the lines are still black. Don't worry, you'll see the color held lines in the final piece!

It's finished! Whoopie!

It's finished! Whoopie!

So about 10 hours of rendering, tweaking, and 20 zillion more rounds of feedback, I arrived at the finished piece! You can see that the lines are no longer black-- it's subtle, but the color held makes the drawing of the figures less harsh against the more painterly background.

Also a little birdie told me that people enjoy seeing animated GIFs of a painting's progress (I've only done it once before), so here you go! Hope you enjoy it. If you like it, I'll try to make them more often!

The process with more in between steps added!

The process with more in between steps added!

Do you like it when I make "client-free" work? Do you like pegasuses? Pegasi? (Whatever the word is). Do you like process posts and animated GIFs? (Pronounced like GIF, not JIF, this isn't peanut butter thankyouverymuch). Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your opinion! It's the internet, sharing opinions is everyone's favorite thing. Don't be shy, I'll respond!

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Hood

Vegan Ramen - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Vegan Ramen - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Like I said in my last post about Grand Central Market-- it's amazing and you have GOT to go if you're in the Los Angeles area! Seriously, call a Lyft or hop the train and get there right now. It's jam-packed with market stalls and restaurants that will take you on an epic food journey. Today's subject is the amazing Ramen Hood-- selected by us at random (ramen-dom, hah) because we were feelin' noodle-y.

This place is a counter-based ramen joint, but it can be tough to get a seat at times. It's usually safest to order it "to go" so you can snag a seat elsewhere in the Market's open seating. Also if you're a beer-with-my-ramen type, you'll need to send one member of your party to fetch it from another stall while you order your food and then meet up somewhere in the middle.

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So I'm known for being pretty oblivious at times. I decided "Yes, ramen" and waltzed right up to the menu, scanning to try to find something with the least amount of FODMAP triggers* that they had. I somehow blatantly missed that this place was 100% vegan. Not only did I not realize it was vegan when I ordered, I somehow completely missed that what I was eating was vegan until I was halfway through it. 

"Our broth is made by simmering kelp and shiitake mushrooms to extract their maximum umami. Then we roast sunflower seeds with white miso and combine that mixture with the kelp/mushroom stock. Then it is all pressure cooked to release the natural oils and starches from the seeds. What's left is a rich, creamy, broth that rivals it's non-vegan counterparts flavor and texture." - RamenHoodLA.com

Yeah, I'd agree that it rivals its non-vegan counterpart. As a matter of fact, their broth is a lot lighter than most pork-based broths, so I didn't feel like a disgusting, blorpy greaseball afterward!

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The thing that surprised me the most was the egg. And just what, pray tell, is a Vegan Egg?? What's it made from?! Clouds and smiles and fairy dreams?

The "egg" is completely vegan, made in two parts. The "white" of the egg starts as locally made, GMO-free soy milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and gelled with agar (a seaweed extract). The "yolk" is a combination of nutritional yeast, back salt and sodium alginate. We spherify the yolk using a little magic and place it in the center of the white. The yolk pops just like the real thing!" - RamenHoodLA.com

Whoa, ok, well there's my answer. See, there IS magic in it, I knew it.

Honestly? I couldn't tell it wasn't an egg, especially when it was mixed in with all the other bright, umami flavors going on. There was something ever-so-slightly different about its yellow and white edges (Uncanny valley, anyone?), but obviously not really enough for me to notice at first.

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So the other stuff in the dish is nori (seaweed), scallions, bean sprouts, and chili threads. Threads of chili! What a concept! And delicious. When doing this illustration, it was super serendipitous because I actually had JUST purchased a new pen that was perfect for it! It was a size 0.3 Copic Multiliner in the color "wine." (affiliate link, if you buy this thing I may get a kickback! Yay!)

Actually my entire recent purchase at the local art store was perfect because I filled out the yellow/orange gamut in my marker collection. Turns out a lot of food is yellow/orange. And green. Who knew?

You know what colors you almost never use in food illustration? Purple and blue. Unless you're illustrating that Unicorn Monster from Starbucks.

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But I digress. Back to the food! What about those definitely-fried-meat-looking items in your illustration, you may ask? Being that the dish is vegan, one might assume that it's tofu... but one would be wrong. It's actually King Oyster Mushroom**, which has a surprisingly meat-like texture. It worked harmoniously with the dish, and was actually one of my favorite elements in it!

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So it took me forever to turn this illustration around, because life, stuff, and things.  At the time, we had a side of Avocado Toast... which may have been the best I've ever had. Sadly, it no longer appears to be available. I get that they probably update their menu with the seasons, but darn it how can we irresponsibly spend all of our disposable income on avocado toast instead of buying houses and diamonds if we can't find any?! ;) Regardless I'm sure their current offerings of side dishes are all great, too.

Anyway, in summary, whether you're vegan or not, if you like ramen, get thee to the Ramen Hood and eat everything you see there.


*Ok, what is this FODMAP thing you keep mentioning in your posts? I'll do a proper post about it sometime, but it's basically different types of carbohydrates found in foods that can cause digestive problems for certain individuals. It's been researched by the Monash University in Australia, and is becoming more widely accepted as a way to prevent and reduce digestive stress.

**But aren't mushrooms high FODMAP? How are you asking this question if you also asked the first question? Your Google Fu must be strong. But yes they are, and I am able to tolerate them. Different people have different trigger combinations, which is why it's important to do extensive testing with your GI doctor or a nutritionist.

Aspen's Halloween ComicFest 2017

I am a part of Aspen's Halloween ComicFest's issue again this year!

Aspen's HWCF 2017 Cover by Simone Di Meo

Aspen's HWCF 2017 Cover by Simone Di Meo

"Aspen Comics' jam-packed, activity-filled, absolutely free coloring book returns... but, this time with a TWIST, and a whole gang of Aspen Animals ready to usher in a new era of fun! Readers can Choose Your Own Adventure in this time-spanning, fantasy realm-busting and speed-bursting new interactive tale! The Aspen Universe has been split into three and it's up to Aspen readers to help guide our hero creatures to safety and unite these worlds back together, all in one exciting coloring book!" - HalloweenComicFest.com

I did pencils and inks for one of the story branches in this choose your own adventure-style comic, which, I gotta say, is a pretty cool concept. I read a ton of those books as a kid, and loved them. Ah, the 90s. In addition, if you've followed my art for even five minutes you'll probably have figured out that I love drawing animals, so a title featuring just animal characters had me super jazzed.

And what is Halloween ComicFest, you may ask? Well, they made a handy video to explain it so that I don't have to!

This book will be available for FREE at your local comic book shop on October on Saturday, October 28. Make sure you get one for yourself!

Check out the full list of Halloween ComicFest titles here!

FoxDeploy.com's 1 Millionth Hit!

So I'm a few weeks late on this, but congraulations to my client, Stephen Owen of FoxDeploy.com for hitting 1 million hits! Fox Deploy is a coding website that I've done branding for in the past-- because even tech blogs need cute foxen!

I've done work for FoxDeploy a few times before! Every time I work with Stephen it's a pleasure because his direction is always "GIVE ME MANY FOXES PLS" and my response is always, "OKAY!!"

I mean this time it was "GIVE ME FOXES CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN PLS," but, y'know, essentially the same thing.

I mean just look at how cute these guys are!

And because I always enjoy seeing how a client implements my artwork later, check out the neat graphic that Stephen made!

Ghost Coast

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All my life I've enjoyed spooky things ("spoopy" as the internet calls it). As a kid I would gobble up any sort of ghost or alien-related media-- I had just about gutted my local library of anything it had on the subjects. The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine was definitely a favorite of mine, as well as Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. Whether it was fictional or real-life accounts, I wanted to read it! My aunt and uncle took me to London at the tender age of ten, and I was excited and desperate to visit the Ghost Tower in Warwick Castle. Finally, I'd see some ghosts and learn that IT WAS ALL REAL! (Think of Baby Joie as a preteen Agent Mulder, yeah?) Sadly, no ghosts made any appearances, but I kept on reading and hoping one day I'd see something.

Even though I'm more of an Agent Scully now in my adult years, I still can't get enough of horror/paranormal/spoopy entertainment. When I was thinking up ideas for new illustrations recently, I remembered that horror-for-kids is a thing. In fact, I recently read a middle grade horror novel called Took by Mary Downing Hahn. (I really enjoyed the book a lot, btw). So, why not try something like that? I decided to cook up a faux middle grade novel about a bunch of kids who investigate paranormal stuff. Turns out it's a sub-genre which already exists in droves, based on my recent trip to the book store... but whatever, I wanted to do it anyway!

I didn't want the cover for this faux book be just a regular ol' "kids exploring haunted house" thing, though. I wanted something interesting and new-- I wanted the setting to be unique. They say draw what you know, right? Or does that just apply to writers? Anyway, I decided that the coastline of Oregon was perfect since it was so beautiful and specific. And, what sort of ghosts might one find near a coastline? A ghost SHIP! Of course the rhyme of "Ghost Coast" was my husband's invention, and I couldn't not use it.

So looking at photos from Battle Rock Beach and the general surrounding coastline of Port Orford, Oregon got me started. I've spent a lot of time up there, considering it's where Joel is from... and we also literally got married there last year. Dramatic rocky cliffs slathered in evergreen forest jutted up against a beach? You got it. Let's add in some kids who have found a map that draws them to the area and are an appropriate mix of "this is terrifying," "this is cool," and "I will conveniently miss any paranormal activity because I am always looking in another direction" respectively. (Of course, gentle reader, the latter's name is clearly Dana).

And finally, we'll add the "ghost." And I mean just look at that sick ship. Sick as in "it's a sickly color" but also "the concept of a ghost ship is cool." I'd be totally into seeing something like that when I go to the beach at night soon.

I enjoyed creating this illustration so much that I am going to do more with these same kids. So keep an eye out for that if you like this sort of thing. If you don't, there's not much I can do about that. Have a spoopy day!