Marriage is what brings us together today

After the SCOTUS legalized gay marriage, the city of Kalamazoo held an equality celebration rally at Bronson Park. Paul and I have a friend who’s a pro-gay-marriage Lutheran minister at the local ELCA church, and The Rev asked Paul to come down and play some music at the rally. Kalamazoo mayor Bobby Hopewell had already married two couples by the time I arrived at the park, and I got to witness two more marriages and a couple of vow renewals. It was an absolutely beautiful day.

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Hurrah for Teenage Cat

I planted a dwarf Montmorency cherry tree several years ago, and have been waiting eagerly for a year in which I could actually, y’know, pick some cherries. Previously, one defiant bird stripped all the cherries before they even had a chance to ripen, but this year, the tree not only had a bumper crop, but the birds mysteriously stayed away.

In the last week, we’ve harvested three huge bowls of tart cherries, probably around 10 quarts total. I was mystified at the good luck until Paul reminded me that a feral cat has taken up residence in our backyard — a slender, white-and-grey kitty with gangly long legs that we have taken to calling “Teenage Cat.” That seems to be the only differing factor this year — the topmost branches were picked clean as usual, but all the lower ones remained untouched — and it seems as likely an explanation as we’re going to get.

After pitting them in stages and freezing them (there’s only so much pitting one can do in a day before one starts getting aggrivated…) I’ve simmered the cherries down in the crockpot and whirled the results in my blender to make a kind of cherry butter. I’m more fond of jam with whole fruit, but this allows a nice thick jam consistency without a ton of extra sugar or pectin. I like it lots.

Thanks, Teenage Cat! We’ll have to leave you some extra food out this winter.

Art weekend

Every year for the last 20 years, Paul’s boss has led a weekend workshop for her Design Center students, where they go to the Lake Michigan shore, far out of reach of the internet and cellphones, and study the world around them, bringing what they observe into the art they create. This year, Trish decided to get some of her graduates together for a similar retreat, and Paul and I were lucky enough to be invited along.

We went to the beach near South Haven and drew textures made by the lake, melted graphite sticks with mineral spirits to create a viscous, creamy slurry that could swirl or tear, used palette knives to coat glass with thick paint so we could pull prints. We dabbled with spraypaint and blue photosensitive paper, read art books, made communal meals. The focus was on experimentation and observation, of play and practice without pressure. It was wonderful.

My favorite project was when one of the art professors brought out a dozen cigar-box pinhole cameras and turned us loose at a local antique shop. The light was iffy at times, so we tried exposures of varying length, and returned a second time for more images. The professor had stuffed a towel under the bathroom door and turned it into a darkroom, where we learned to load the cameras and develop the photos. This was a really great experience for me, as I’d never had the chance to take photography in college, and I was very pleased with the results I got. Watching the images appear in the developer was magical for me — I’m pretty sure I exclaimed aloud each time I saw one darken into something recognizable.

I’m very fortunate that I got the chance to try so many new techniques and play with so many new tools this weekend. I didn’t realize how much I needed that chance to experiment and explore — It shocked me how much I missed that feeling of pressureless creation.

Anyway, here are the photos, original first, then developed — I like seeing them side by side. Enjoy! I know I do.

Test photo of me, taken in bright light to test focal length
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My first photo — a pair of old rollerskates on a table next to a small outbuilding. Bright light, 30 second exposure.
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My second try — old doors for sale. Weak light, 3-minute exposure, very quick dip in the developer to keep it from overexposing.

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Whoops, got the camera too close while checking focal length. Still kind of neat.

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Two portraits taken of me — long exposures just before sunset.

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Such a long exposure that my breathing blurred my form.

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Closeups of my favorites

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KRVT, finally.

Tonight the clouds parted after several days of rain, so I took my first bike ride on the KRVT so far this year. I saw a bald eagle, a downy woodpecker at work, and this lovely Jack in the Pulpit. I love biking in the golden hour, seeing shafts of light through the deep woods, watching my shadow lengthen in front of me.

Comfort and Adam’s How-To Book is Here!

It’s here! Adam Withers’ and Comfort Love’s Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics is now on sale!

Available online and at finer book and comic shops everywhere, it’s the most comprehensive book on making comics, manga, and webcomics you’ll find! Our oversized mega-chapters include: Concepting, Writing, Drawing, Coloring, Lettering, Publishing, and Marketing! Everything you need to know to make your book a reality!

Plus there are sidebars from more than 70 of the best and smartest comics/manga/webcomics pros out there, so you don’t have to take our word for it.

… or mine, for that matter. Check out these reviews from Bleeding Cool and Comic Related. Paul brought our copy home from the Local Comic Store, and it’s even more gorgeous than I’d hoped.

Thanks again, Adam and Comfort, for including us in this amazing project. I’m so glad to still be part of comics self-publishing.

Microaggressions

That thing where both you and your husband get invited to speak at a function, and despite your very similar careers in comics, you get subtly different levels of interest. See if you can spot the differences:

Dear Mr. Sizer,

I’m a student intern with the [Organization Redacted], an organization dedicated to promoting literature and writers in [Location Redacted].

On Saturday, June 13th, we’re running a comic book writing and mini comic making workshop. Given your expertise, we were wondering if you would be our guest speaker.

Payment will be provided. We’d require you to do a half hour presentation plus critique the finished minicomics our participants will make in the workshop.

Given that we’d like to start advertising this week, with Free Comic Book Day just around the corner, I’d appreciate hearing back from you today or tomorrow. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
[Name Redacted]

Dear Ms. Irwin,

My name is [Name Redacted] and I’m a student-intern with the [Organization Redacted], an organization for supporting authors in [Location Redacted].

On June 13th, we’re hosting a comics writing and minicomics making workshop. We were wondering if you’d be willing to come and be our guest speaker and judge the resulting minicomics.

Payment can be provided. Given that we need to start advertising soon and with FCBD just around the corner, we’d appreciate you responding today if possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
[Name Redacted]

How to build a rhino

So you guys remember my buddy Mark, right? The guy who helped his daughters send up a stratoballoon? Who does a kid-science video podcast? The guy who’s been my cubemate since 2008?

Well, last week I heard that he’d tried to build a robot kit with his daughter Lucy, and, well — it didn’t actually robot well. A non-functional robot isn’t good incentive to keep building stuff, so I decided to get him and his daughters a kit that actually worked. Enter the Strandbeest Rhino kit from ThinkGeek.

What’s a Strandbeest? It’s a wind-powered kinetic sculpture invented by Theo Jansen, and it’s totally awesome:

True to form, Mark made a great blogpost outlining the build. He, Lucy and Katherine got the Beest built in pretty short order, and got inventive when it required a bit more windpower:

Now that’s better. And also: SCIENCE!

Vögelein now on Comixology!

Good news! You can now buy both Vögelein books at Comixology. These have been in the works for about a year now, and I’m really excied to have them available. If you’ve never tried Comixology’s “assisted view” reading format, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s pretty neat, and adds a subtle dynamism to digital reading. Thanks, Comixology!

Rob Chamberlin: Serendipity.

There’s an outstanding profile of my neighbor and friend Rob Chamberlin in this month’s Encore magazine. His life is exactly as magical as they describe it, and every meal or conversation I have with him and his wife Suzanne is remarkable. Rob’s a heck of a guy, and one of the things I admire most about him is that he leaves his life open for miracles and mysteries, and they find him with unerring timing. Check out the article here.

Paul’s at it again…

So hey, I know I spend an awful lot of time on this blog talking up all the awesome stuff Paul gets up to, but he’s a pretty legitimately amazing guy who’s always pushing his design abilities and making incredible art. I’m not just saying that because I’m married to him — that’s empirical data, and you can test that stuff in a lab.

He just did an installation for 826 Michigan, and I did a writeup with all sorts of photos and stuff over at the Fiery Studios blog, so you should go check it out.

Deconstructed

I started this about two months ago as a short-story exercise, and it’s taken me this long to finish it. It’s not much, but it’s still comics. One foot in front of the other.

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SPX Plans

I’m very sorry to report that I won’t have a table at SPX this year, after all. For more details, please check my post on the Fiery Studios site.

Obligatory Dog Photo.

Miss Isabel, with her favorite thing in all the world: a tennis ball. Exercising her is a breeze because she’ll chase it literally as many times as you throw it, forever. She has such strong jaws that she’s already chewed clean through a few of them, even the extra-strong ones they sell at the pet store. I went ahead and ordered a mess of used tennis balls off of eBay — even with shipping, they’re still way cheaper than most other dog toys, and then we don’t have to feel bad when she destroys them.

She’s doing very well, and has come out of her shell in the most amazing ways. For such an old dog, she’s taken to clicker training like a champ, and has learned several basic commands, though we’re mostly working on simple things that will make further training easier, like making eye contact when we call her name. Once she has those down we can move on to more fun stuff — like teaching her to run beside me when I roller skate. Yay, dogs.

Adam and Comfort’s Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics

So here’s something cool: Paul and I each have a small contribution in a new comics how-to book by our friends, Adam Withers and Comfort Love. Check out the full details at the Fiery Studios blog.

Hourly Comics Day

… Two weeks late, but still. I didn’t realize it only happened on February 1st! I’ll be more punctual next time around. Click each image to embiggen.

Carla’s got a new website

Miss Carla’s gone and made herself a whole new website, to go with her Patreon. Go check it out, and if you’re so inclined, throw her some support so that she can concentrate more on making her amazing comics.

Old Ghosts and Tonkotsu

Last night I drove out to Ann Arbor to pick up the test run of the Old Ghosts print-on-demand edition. I was very pleased with the results (full report on the Fiery Studios site), and celebrated by going out for one of my favorite foods in the world, tonkotsu ramen. Jim Ottaviani and Kat Hagedorn were polite enough to indulge me in my noodle cravings.

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Suzy Hotrod

To commemorate her retirement from the Gotham All-Stars, here’s a picture of Suzy Hotrod, courtesy of this amazing photo by the equally-amazing Joe Mac.

Happy 2015!

Have some Kamala Khan and Lockjaw to start your year off right. Gotta say, G. Willow Wilson has totally turned me around on Lockjaw. Always thought he was too dorky.

Paul has a new book out!

Good news: Paul’s newest book, a graphic novella, has just been accepted by Comixology, and you can now buy it digitally as a Guided View PDF! Here are the details:

“In 90 minutes, everything can change…”
It’s live and digital and ready to purchase! My latest graphic novella MIXTAPE: 1984 is NOW available to download via Comixology for your phone, tablet or laptop.

This is my first 100% digital release, and I’m excited to see how far it will go! If you have friends who love comics, 80’s music, awkward stories about first love or any combination therein, please share this as far and wide as you can. Your support and help with boosting my signal is appreciated, please and thank you!

We do have a few physical copies here at the house, so if you’d like one, please be sure to drop us a line and we’ll make sure one gets into your hands.

Congratulations, Paul! There’s no better feeling for a comics creator than to release a new book. Hooray!

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