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Bring a copy of the SLOTS trade paper back and I'll sign it and include a free head sketch of Stanley Dance!  Cheers!

Every artist, on some level, loves fanfare.  Who doesn't?  But most artists resist criticism.  I've been guilty of it in the past myself.  But for the most part, after I suck up my pride, I use it.

Any time you put your work out there [ in a comic book or on the web or in a gallery ], you're up for criticism.  Sometimes the critiques aren't necessarily valid.  They're coming from fans or, in a lot of cases, keyboard warriors that just want to be negative for the sake of being negative.  But in almost all cases, there's something to be learned by criticism. 

My wife is a perfect example.  She's not an artist, which is my usual go to excuse when debating the merits of those that might offer critiques of my work that I disagree with.  My wife, can't draw.  But she knows when a nose is off.  Or if the lighting looks "weird".  Or if an arm doesn't look right.  Or if a drawing is just sorta dead.  She has a good eye.  Maybe she can't articulate it in a way that offers me a solution but she does a good job of letting me know if a drawing of mine is on the money or could use some change.  The criticism is never fun to hear.  Never.  But the moment I get over myself and take a fresh look at what was critiqued - I find the change is always a drastic improvement on the work itself. 

That's not to say that any drawing that gets critiqued becomes perfect - but you will start adjusting your focus to that specific problem.  It helps.  Fresh eyes always help. 

So what if you're trail blazing?  You're Picaso?  You're trying to do things artistically that no one has ever done before?  How can criticism be constructive then?  Well, it's always constructive in one sense or another.  Even the casual fan can pick up on aesthetics.  People instinctively relate to attractive things.  Granted some find morbid or ugly attractive.  But morbid can be attractive.  Everything can be if it's approached well.  My point is, people, more often than not, can spot what's appealing.  They can appreciate quality.  So if you're trying something new and inventive and it's awesome - people are gonna go wow!  But if you're trying what you think is new and awesome and you're not getting the reaction you want - you may need to make some adjustments.  Maybe minor or maybe major.  But you won't know if you don't seek out solid advice and criticism. 

In my case, I'm lucky enough to have a very critical but incredibly talented set of friends.  My biggest critic is :icondevilpig: Dave Johnson.  A lot of times I'm terrified to send art his way.  He doesn't pull punches.  But his critiques are genuine and he wants me to be the best I can be. 

Find someone or a group of someones that you can get some solid feedback from.  Otherwise, you'll find improvement to be a very slow ride.  And that ride could come to a full stop.  Everyone has seen what happens to colleagues [ or celebrities ] that rise to the top of any field, art, music or other entertainment and stop listening to criticism and only allow "Yes-men" to sound off their praises.  They lose touch.  They lose their fire.  They lose the edge that got them noticed in the first place.  They stop growing.

Give yourself every opportunity to succeed.  Suck up your pride and ask for feedback.  It may hurt now but once those wounds heal up - you'll be stronger than ever. 

Cheers.
If you're an artist of any kind it's extremely important to hone your craft and technical abilities.  After all, the better you draw and the better you are at mastering the drawing tools you use - the easier it is to convey your unique message for public consumption. 

But how important is technical ability, really?  Obviously, it's very important.  Understanding anatomy, light and shadow and perspective are key to solid drawing.  It's important to always be improving in those departments.  It's also very important to master the tools you use to draw with. Learning to render or color professionally can only increase your appeal to both fans and other professionals. 

But what about developing artistic appeal on a much deeper level? 

It's not just about finding a pleasing style.  Anyone can do that with enough practice.  You can always choose a popular artist and emulate his or her style.  The blueprint is right there.  But why do artists that copy a style never reach the same heights as the artists they're copying?  I'm sure you could say that they are always one step behind in a sense.  And that's probably true.  But a technically proficient artist should be able to not only copy someone's style but even improve upon it, right?  But that's very rarely the case.

I know of so many artists that are at extremely high levels in their technical abilities but are missing one key ingredient.  The people they draw, the compositions they choose are arguably perfect.  The rendering: perfect.  The lighting: perfect.  And yet... - yawn-.... The drawings or comic book pages are boring.  But if the drawing is technically perfect, what could they have done better?

What I'm talking about is basically something called charm. 

There's a charm to a Norman Rockwell or a Leyendecker painting.  Arthur Adams draws charming people and creatures.  Neal Adams drew people that actually looked like they were saying and thinking the word balloons above their heads.  Frank Miller and Klaus Janson created a very real and gritty world full of relate-able characters.  Think about Berni Wrightson.  Walt Simonson and John Buscema's figures are just naturally powerful and strong.  Frank Frazetta is a great example of a charming artist.  Jack Davis, of Mad Magazine fame, was able to convey a great deal of humor in his work.  Animators like Chuck Jones were a breed apart when it came to charm.  It seems like certain artists exude charm and others simply do not.

So how does an artist develop charm?

I'm not going to lie to you here and tell you that for some it doesn't come naturally.  Because, I believe, that for some - it does come naturally.  Some artists naturally infuse personality into their works and you see it immediately. Others need to develop it.  The easiest way is to "let go".  Let go of the technical side of drawing for a bit and practice conveying emotion in your subjects.  You probably have developed a set way of drawing a face or a figure.  But that set way of drawing can sometimes limit your ability to convey emotion. 

Forgetting what you know and drawing from a raw place allows you to access parts of yourself on an artistic level that technically sound drawing cannot.  It's too restrictive.  There are too many rules.  If you're trying to draw someone laughing - your lines and brush strokes and even the color you choose should mirror that emotion.  You'll be surprised how much you can convey with a few "honest" lines.  The same goes for a figure in action or drawing an angry or sad face.  Take a break from drawing in your practiced style and try drawing how you feel.  At first you may not be pleased with how such a drawing may turn out.  That's natural.  If you could hit a homerun the first time you were at bat or bowl a game of 300 - THAT would be unnatural.  Everything takes practice.  Including learning how to loosen up and how to draw from a very human and emotional space.  And when I say human and emotional, I don't mean you have to get all weepy.  I'm talking about just accessing the part of you that is truly relating to whatever is beneath what you're drawing.  If it's cowboy smoking a cigarette while leaning on a wooden fence or a couple in love at a cafe - you have to put yourself there.  In their heads.  But you also have to feel what that fence feels like.  What the air feels like.  Get inside your subject's head like an actor would.  Sometimes the drawing won't be pretty but the you'll truly capture a moment.  Capturing a moment is so much more important than drawing the perfect, photo realistic, cowboy hat.  It's about feeling.  As an artist, if you want to truly deliver your message, you need to transfer that human experience.  Your experience.  Your perspective.  That's the most interesting and entertaining thing about art.  That's why art is so powerful. 

Once you practice this skill it's rather easy to apply your drawing style and rendering techniques later on.  It's like applying the body panels on an automobile frame and engine.  Without the engine, the frame and the proper suspension - it's just a pretty car.  With all the ingredients in place, the proper foundation, the car is more than just stylistically attractive.  It's the full package.  Beauty and performance.  A masterpiece.  Perhaps I'm getting carried away.  But that's actually a good thing, right? 

Cheers. 
For me it's all about drumming up feelings.  Those feelings I got when I first discovered comic books and comic book magazines like Savage Sword of Conan, Eerie and other Warren publications.  It was a strange, mysterious black and white world.  I didn't know what was next.  It's hard to explain.  I would turn the page and discover a new style, a new way of looking at drawing.  As much as I loved the House Styles of Marvel and DC Comics - I also fell in love with the work of those famous late 60's, 70's and early 80's illustrators that weren't doing superhero comics. 

So when I'm drawing, I'm trying to recreate that experience for myself.  Most of that comes down to my inking.  I study a lot of exceptional artists like Williamson, Frazetta, Klaus Janson, Jorge Zaffino, Alex Nino and Toppi. I love that old skool look. I love evidence of the inking tools like the brush and the pen nib.  I don't want my work to look like "a computer drew it" - which is what artists sometimes hear every now and again.  If it's too clean, it lacks humanity, poetry and playfulness.  Where is the mystery if you know or can guess how an artist will handle the lines and tones that create a particular form?  An arm, a face, a rock or a tree?

In my early days I wanted desperately to display a precise and clean line.  Ultimately, I believe that because of the practice and precision of goals like that I developed solid control of most inking tools.  Brushes, pen nibs and rapidiographs.  But when I left the comic book field and pursued design and advertising - I relied less and less on the finished look I crafted for superhero comics.  I found myself drawing more and more like the artistic heroes I had as, basically, a child.  I liked John Buscema's Conan.  I liked it when he inked himself or when Tony DeZuniga did finishes on him.  Bold lines and plenty of Zip-a-Tone.  I also poured through the Ballantine Frazetta books and studied his work endlessly.  That lead me to Al Williamson.  I was introduced to Alex Nino later on [ before I was even a teenager ].  Later I was shown Toppi and my father introduced me to the advertising illustration of Bob Peak.  As a fan of Klaus Janson I was naturally a fan of Jorge Zaffino's powerful and dramatic inking style.  Reckless, strong and uncompromising. 

So, years later, when I returned to comic books I struggled.  My first attempts looked like cousins of my earlier work.  I was very dissatisfied.  I quickly discovered that I could draw in the style I developed outside of the comic book world and it wouldn't be disregarded.  Instead, I was nudged to go further by artists I respected like Dave Johnson.  Today I'm still trying to narrow down a specific look.  But I never want my work to be mistaken by anyone that maybe a computer program was used.  My goal is to reawaken the fan in me.  I hope to keep things interesting so that anyone reading the comics I draw looks and wonders a bit. 

Blah, blah, blah.  Ramblings of a never satisfied artist.   
I liken the comic book making business to the life of a donut.

Allow me to explain.

Unless you're a baker, I doubt you're going to make a good donut your first time out. I mean it sounds simple enough. A donut. But it's not. When was the last time your mother made you a donut? "I know, I'll bake some donuts and bring them to the party...!" Not a lot of people can make donuts, or good ones at least. So I assume it takes some practice. Some care. Just like making a decent comic book.

So you practice and train yourself and you get to a point in your donut making expertise that you decide to make one for public consumption. You gather the ingredients. You prep your kitchen. You set the oven temperature. You get your donut ducks in order. Once it's all nice and heated you want people to enjoy it -so you proudly display that tasty tire on a pretty shelf. Probably next to a bunch of other carefully crafted donuts. Finally someone buys that little fella and chews it up. Maybe they were just hungry and gobbled it down. But maybe they snapped a picture of it with their cellphone and posted your glorious creation for all the world to see. Maybe even wrote a Tweet about how delightful it was. But then they ate it.

Now the shelf is empty again.

No one remembers that donut. Few people are discussing that donut.

Creating a donut that leaves people still talking after consuming it is no easy task I imagine.

I guess that's why there are so few comic books that stand the test of time. I still talk about Frank Miller's Dark Knight and his Daredevil run, Walter Simonson's Thor run. Claremont and Byrne's X-Men. Barry Winsor Smith's Weapon X. Buscema's Conan, Neal Adam's Batman, Moore and Gibbon's Watchmen. Arthur Adams' X-Men annuals and Michael Golden's insane cover run.

Those are some tasty donuts.
Motivation to achieve your goals in life comes in many forms.  I decided to take a look at some of mine throughout my life.  Keep reading if you care to learn my deep dark secrets [ ultimately you can use them against me later in life when I'm weak and defenseless. ]

When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my father. He passed away when I was 28 but man he left a mark!  By the time I was a teenager I was a lot to handle - so we hardly ever saw eye to eye.  He was a tough and talented man.  To me he was like a super hero.  He had a very black and white philosophy about life.  He defined right and wrong very distinctly - there was no grey in his world.  As a kid, a philosophy like that makes complete sense even if it isn't very realistic.  He was a former pro boxer turned commercial artist.  Eventually he ran his own ad agency.  He could play guitar and piano by ear and played baseball as often as he could.  He also loved comic books.  Ideally, he would tell me, he would have loved to have been a comic book artist.  

So you can imagine the sort of impression that made on me.  When I turned 14 I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist.  I had already lost some favor with my father prior to that decision.  At age 12 I lost a school yard fight and he wouldn't speak to me for a month.  It was a tough little stretch.  I decided that I would throw myself into boxing and martial arts so that would never happen again [ sadly, I've won some and lost some since then - but at least I toughened up a bit! ].  At 14, he took me to see the movie Conan the Barbarian.  My father had put me on a steady diet of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone [ he gave me the middle name: Duke, after John Wayne... ] - so Conan fit right in.  Suffice to say, the film really resonated with me.  I picked up an issue of Savage Sword of Conan [ my father loved the work of John Buscema, Neal Adams and Walt Simonson ] and my course was set!  I would be a comic book artist!  

Unfortunately, my father wasn't very keen on my artistic or professional fighting pursuits.  He felt that the life of an artist was a difficult one - and it is at times!  Boxing was too dangerous and would leave me brain damaged - I should be a doctor or a lawyer.  I figured he didn't think I had the stomach for an art career. Maybe I wasn't tough enough to deal with the criticism and long hours, etc.  

I was, however, motivated to prove to him that I could do it and earn his respect.

A few months later I submitted my work to Marvel Comics and received a very favorable response from their Submissions Editor.  He said if I stuck with it I could be hired by Marvel and sent me a lot of paperwork that explained what an average artist could expect to earn, including all the medical benefits, etc.  I couldn't believe it.  And neither could my father!  After that, he changed his tune regarding my art career.  He had only given me one art lesson as a kid: How to use a stick figure and apply box like shapes to it in order create a human body that loosely resembled a robot.  After that I was on my own.  That letter changed my life in many ways.  My study books were filled with drawings.  So were my notebooks.  And my bedroom.  I started a business drawing custom RPG [ role play games - like Dungeons and Dragons ] characters for enthusiasts.  I ran an ad in Dragon Magazine with money I made from mowing lawns around my neighborhood.  Before I had my Driver's License I had already bought a car with what I had earned.  It also kept me practicing.  Every day I would come home from school and draw someone's character.  It taught me discipline and how to run a business.    

When I moved to NYC during my early Marvel, DC and Valiant career I had somewhat of a mentor.  I also considered him a good friend at one point in my life.  He was older than me and opened my eyes to the art and comic book world in ways I hadn't explored or even fathomed.  I'm eternally grateful for the experience and the friendship.  He was leaps and bounds ahead of me and I listened to every word he said.   Like all of us, my mentor wasn't without his flaws.  Sadly, one thing he was keen on doing was telling me that I would never be as good as he was.  And also, that I was, at best, an illustrator and not an artist.  He made a distinction.  To be fair, there is a difference.  That really stuck with me.  From that point on I was motivated to prove him wrong.  I'm not sure that I have but it's certainly something that compelled me forward in my artistic pursuit.  

I'll use a sports analogy [ I seem to be fond of them ]: It's rare that an athlete is born and not created.  In the sense that most athletes mature into the players they are by virtue of practicing and testing their skills on and off the court or in the ring. The only way you can improve your Free Throw in basketball is to throw Free Throws.  Lots of them.  It's almost impossible, even without coaching, to not get better at throwing Free Throws if you continually practice.  The same is true for artists.  Learning all you can, varying your study and asking questions are all paramount to improving your artistic skills.  More importantly though, is applying the knowledge you're picking up.  Literally practicing what, inside your head, you know.  Understanding the mechanics of solid drawing is one thing, applying those mechanics is another.  

So, I did everything in my power to improve my art game and prove my mentor pal wrong.  It's a never ending struggle/quest and it's one that I never tire of.  Practice can't make perfect.  That's a myth.  There is no perfect drawing.  Ask your favorite artist what they would change about one your favorite pieces of art drawn by him/her and they'll tell you exactly what's wrong with it and what they would do to improve it.  But practice does make progress.  I'm very happy with the progress I've made since my first issue of Prophet over 20 years ago but I'm hardly satisfied with where I'm at artistically.  That's a good thing.  There's still room for growth and because I'm still learning - I will continue to hone my craft.  

So early on in my art career I was motivated by my love of comic books and my father's admiration.  Later I was motivated by revenge in a strange sense.  What drives me now is the result of my pursuit to learn and grow artistically.  Today my motivation is a healthy passion and it has changed the way I look at everything around me.  When you're motivated for pure reasons there's a certain amount of joy you experience that's unlike any other kind.  If you're following an artistic path, motivation can come from many areas in your life - but when you do it for yourself the journey is the most fulfilling.  I guess that just makes sense, doesn't it?  Funny how it took me so many years to figure that out...  For good or ill, all my trials and errors will most likely be presented on Deviant Art for all the world to see!  Gulp!  Scary stuff!

Motivation and desire for change will create improvements.  Your passion for what you do, whether it's art, photography, writing, music or sports will take you places you never dreamed possible.  Your passion, if properly explored and respected, can change your life.
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above

Breaking into Comics Part Five

Tue Nov 16, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Your First Assignment

So let's pretend all your hard work has paid off and a publisher/editor has given you a script to draw or a page to ink.  Maybe it's only a back up story.  It doesn't matter.  You have an assignment.  

Naturally, you'll want to do your very best work to impress the heck out of the editor and the fans - but you may be a bit intimidated or feel some pressure to perform.  Of course, that's very natural.  It's a lot like your first time up to bat in a baseball game.  Sure you've practiced and hit the ball before.  In this case, your samples were batting practice.  But now there's a few people in the stands and the pitcher isn't your coach or a friend of yours.  It's different.  Very much so.

Regardless, it's time to draw.  My suggestion is to start immediately.  If you're a penciler - this means reading the script and maybe doing some thumbnail sketches.  Convince yourself that they are merely starting ideas and not final thumbnails.  If you're an inker, start Hardlining the page.  Bring out the templates and start finding all the ovals and circles and lay down some ink.  Again, you're just doing some very basic things that don't require much artistry or much time.  

In both cases, beginning this way accomplishes two things:  One, without realizing it, you're starting.  It's the hardest thing to do when it comes to comics.  And Two, you're actually giving yourself a strong base for the following day.  When you return, you've built up some momentum.  There's some actual work to build on.  You've broken down that first scary wall.  Baby Stepping your way through each element of completion makes the process that much easier.  Before you know it, you'll be finished.  Each step won't consume or overwhelm you.  By breaking down the process and starting immediately, you take all the fear and pressure off yourself.  

Let's back track a bit with the penciling.  It's day two and you're sitting there with your initial rough thumbnails.  They might be almost too vague to really use.  That's fine.  But you have some storytelling ideas in front of you.  Here's a fun technique I use when I ink - but it can also be used for the pencil stage: How many times have your critiqued someone else's work?  Even if you've never formally addressed another artist about his or her work, you've probably critiqued it in your mind.  You might think, "Personally, I think this particular shot would work better from this angle..." Or, "This doesn't make sense, you should try this..."  Well, try doing that with your own work.  Pretend those thumbnails were drawn by someone else and you need to "help them"... Suddenly, your eyes open up and it's easier to see ways to improve on your initial ideas/designs/composition.  Trust me it works.  I use this technique on my pencils when I go to ink them.  I pretend the page was drawn by a new artist that really needs some serious help in every aspect of the game and I go to town.  Magically, I fix mistakes [ sadly, not all of them... ] and the page turns out much better than if I were to remain faithful to my original scribbles.  

The process works because it allows you to step outside the box.  You step outside of the immediate problem and look at it with fresh eyes.  You remove pressure from yourself and analyze and improve as if you're the teacher.  It feels safer.  As a result, you'll see dramatic improvements in your work.  The first step is thumbnailing.  The next step is refining those thumbnails.  Then you want to block in the key elements on the actual page.  Next, you may want to start defining shapes and key figures.  Then continue to refine figures and elements until you're satisfied with the page.  Little by little, all of it painless, you've completed a page or series of pages.

One side note: Don't blow your deadline.  This, above all else, is paramount.  Turn that job in on time.  Just like a job at a store or restaurant - if you're late - you get fired.  It applies to comic books too and yet so many artists blow their deadlines.  Editors vaule great art but they also value artists that can deliever on time.  Because if you can't deliver, it costs the company [ printing, scheduling, retail commitments, etc ]. If the company can't deliver then they can't stay in business.  If they can't stay in business, your editor loses their job.  To the editor, their job and livelihood is more important than yours.  Sorry.  It's how the world works.

Alright, you've finished your pages - now what?  Obviously you want to deliver them but let's say there's no concrete promise or indication of future work?  What to do?  You need to start sending out your work.  Don't rely on one editor if you don't have another assignment lined up.  You need to hit the pavement again the same way you did when you landed this first assignment.  The good news is that now you have some published work on your side.  New samples.  They're probably considerably better than the samples you used to get your first assignment.  

Until you've secured a solid work arrangement, you need to continue pursuing publishers and editors in the same manner you did initially.  There is no mystery group of editors that sit around worrying about whether you have work or not.  I know working professionals today that don't get steady work and they wonder why their phone isn't ringing.  They imagine that there's a weekly meeting of editors and they discuss everyone that's ever worked for their company and keep tabs on them.  Obviously there aren't any businesses that work that way but sometimes it's easy to think that if a company has hired you once or even several times - that you're "in their system".  The system rewards those that pursue the system.  You won't get a piece of pie in the cafeteria line unless you ask for it.  It's there, but the cook behind the counter can't read your mind and he's not going to plop food on your tray unless you tell him what you want.  You need to ask.  

So ask.  Send samples.  If you don't get another assignment based on your last one, do more samples.  Improve.  You improved enough to get that first job, now it's time to improve some more to get another.  Believe me, each time you complete a job you will improve dramatically.  If you don't, you're not as passionate about the medium as you thought you were.  There's so much to learn and improve upon with every stage/level of art.  It never ends.  Only your passion to learn and grow does.  

Good luck barbarians.  Break down that gate.

  • Listening to: Alt Nation on Sirius
  • Reading: Oscar Wilde
  • Watching: UFC
  • Playing: See Below
  • Eating: what I want when I want
  • Drinking: See Above

Breaking Into Comics: Part Four

Sun Nov 7, 2010, 12:51 PM
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PART FOUR: Self Publishing and Working on Spec

One way to get noticed by bigger publishers is to self publish your own comic book.  Obviously, this requires quite a bit of work.  A story needs to be written, penciled, inked [ optional ], colored [ optional ] and lettered.  You also need some capital to pay for printing costs and some type of game plan when approaching distribution.  But the biggest factor is the time it takes to create enough of a story to publish.  If you're out of school, most likely you're working at some kind of job to pay your bills.  Managing your time properly to put a book out requires discipline and passion.  It's obviously not impossible.  People do it all the time with varied degrees of success.  The amount of experience gained from such an endeavor is probably the equivalent to a year's worth of schooling.  

But if you've decided to skip the Portfolio Review aspect route to gain employment at one of the larger comic book companies you have to be willing to accept the pros and cons of the experience.  Because this is most likely your first foray into sequential storytelling, the chances of critical acclaim are fairly slim.  It's probably a good idea to go into it knowing that the venture is one big learning experience.  It certainly is.  And, of course, there's always a chance that your self publishing will catch on and actually be a success.  It happens and it could happen for you.  However, in most cases, the experience will help you to create samples an editor can assess.  Like I mentioned, the more pages you draw - the more you should improve your craft.  Publishing a comic book will force you to draw things you probably would have never drawn before [ even if you write the story yourself ].

The downside of publishing a comic book, without prior work experience, is the extra time and energy required.  To be honest, you probably won't recoup your costs.  That said, you may want to consider working on spec[ulation].  Also, it should be noted that a professional artist that decides to self publish has a much greater chance of success both monetarily and career-wise.  What we're discussing here is only the Pros and Cons for the amateur or budding artist.

Working on Spec means working with the "speculation" that [ in this case ] the comic book you draw for free will make a profit and the publisher can eventually pay you.  You must understand that working for spec, 99 out of 100 times, means simply working for free.  After over twenty years in the art business I have only been paid for a Spec Project once.  I have done so many spec projects [ like most artists ] that I generally have a rule that I NEVER work on spec.  And if you're a professional artist, I highly recommend you never work on spec.  Just like a barber wouldn't cut your hair for free.  You shouldn't draw something for someone for free.  Your talent has value.  

Early in your career is, however, not a bad time to work on spec - provided you understand that, even with the promise of later payment, you will almost never be paid.  The reason to accept Spec Work is simple: Published Work Experience.  It's as simple as that.  Just like Self Publishing, the experience you will gain from illustrating an actual comic book is priceless.  By the end of the process you will not be the same artist.  You may learn you don't ever want to draw a comic book again. But most likely you'll learn what you need to improve.  You'll learn what you do well.  You'll discover how you work when confronted with an artistic obstacle you had not previously encountered.  

If you're considering either of these options, I would personally go the Spec Route [ with the understanding that Spec really means Free ].  In both cases you gain tremendous work experience and solid samples to show publishers.  The advantage of Spec Work is that you aren't coughing up any of your own money for publishing costs.  Drawing a comic book for free is hard enough, paying a printer to publish it is an expense I would do my best to avoid if I could.  

The other option is to work harder on your samples.  Deviant Art, your own blog or website can be used to promote your efforts and build recognition.  There are so many tools at your disposal today.  Most of them free.  Take full advantage of them and take control of your artistic success.  You might want to set up a Internet Destination Point [ Deviant Art, a blog or website... ] where you publish one new page of a story a week.  By the end of 22 weeks you would have an entire issue's worth of content and plenty of viable samples to show a publisher.  You would also be building a Web Presence.  What's nice is that you would basically be self publishing without the printing costs.  Something to think about.

In the end, the idea is that you won't be hire-able until your work improves.  And your work won't improve unless you draw more sequential pages.  The saying popularized in the film, Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come" has real power.  The trick is building something worth coming to.

NEXT WEEK:  Your first assignment.

  • Listening to: Alt Nation on Sirius
  • Reading: Vanity Fair
  • Watching: Forensic Files
  • Eating: what I want

Breaking Into Comics: Part Three

Mon Oct 18, 2010, 6:51 PM
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PART THREE: Submitting samples

Okay, we've already discussed that breaking into the comic book market [ or any art based market for that matter ] takes a self conscious - critical eye and, generally speaking, you can't just draw 3-6 sample comic book pages for the first time and nail a job with the top publishers.  Even though that sounds reasonable enough, some artists simply don't understand that you need to baby step your way into a comic book career.  

Let's put it this way:  You may want to be a lawyer.  Perhaps you have received high marks in school and consider yourself very intelligent.  In fact, you might be very intelligent - but that doesn't mean you can pass the Law Exam for your state [ country, etc ].  It's true you don't need to go to law school to be a lawyer.  But you have to pass the exam.  So, technically, if by some miracle you taught yourself to pass the exam, yes - you could be a lawyer.  But, most law firms want to hire a lawyer with a degree.  It tells them you've covered all the bases and are familiar with all the basics. Luckily, you don't need an art degree to become a successful artist.  But you do need to develop your artistic chops to become a valid consideration in the eyes of comic book fans and, more importantly, comic book editors.  

After reading Part Two you realize it's probably necessary to start on the bottom and work your way up.  It's also probably a good idea to make a lot of your artistic mistakes at the expense of smaller publishers.  Think of the smaller publishers as Gladiator School.  They get you ready for that big battle in the coliseum.  So... let's get you published.  

The first thing you need to do is assess your talent level.  Where do you fit in the current industry?  You need to look at your talent level realistically and answer that question.  Aiming high isn't a bad thing but if your ego can't take rejection - you're probably better off starting with a publisher that puts out books befitting your current state of ability.  Remember, think of it as a training ground.  You might even get some offers to work on "spec", which is short for speculation.  We'll discuss that in a bit.  But right now let's say you've assessed your talent and believe that a company we'll call Dreadful Comics would consider hiring you.  

So what does Dreadful Comics publish?  Hopefully Dreadful Comics isn't a comic book company that publishes only one comic book.  If they do, it probably means they're self publishing.  If they're self publishing, meaning it's just a writer and an artist [ or a writer/artist ] publishing his or her own comic book, they're not going to have the funds to pay you to draw a comic book for them.  Even if you would draw a comic book for them for free - they probably aren't interested in doing all the leg work required to make your dreams come true.  So you need to find a comic book company that publishes at least a few comic books.  

Pretend that company is called Capital Comics.  They publish at least five titles a month.  Some are just mini-series but they have a few ongoing titles.  They're going to need to find artists to draw these books.  Trust me.  Small publishers always need new talent because a lot of their artists get better and move on to more lucrative work.  Or, in some cases, they'll hire a new artist that can't deliver work on time.  Missing deadlines causes a trickle down effect that costs publishers money because distributors also have delivery deadlines.  Penalties and other costs will bleed a small company dry [ and a big company ].  So, you'll always find some opportunity at a smaller company.  Maybe not every single one but if you've assessed your talent well, you'll be on your way to a comic book career.  So, now that you've found a company - you need to draw some sample pages.  I suggest picking a title of theirs that you could see yourself drawing and come up with a 5 page short story that incorporates their character[s].  Can't come up with a story?  C'mon, try!  Alright, for some reason, even though you're creative enough to draw comic books you've decided you can't write... Fine.  Here's what you do: find a five page [ or six or eight, whatever ] story with, say Batman or whoever, and adapt it to their character.  Your samples don't need lettering, they just need to look like they tell a story.  

Now, since you've studied the medium and you're familiar with comic book page layouts you know you want to give them some variety.  Show some "regular people" in your sample pages.  Not just super heroes or the beautiful girl detective - this is very important.  You may not need more than a panel that shows some bystanders reacting to the action or a situation you're illustrating.  But, show the editor or publisher that you can draw a wide range of things well.  You'll want to show the exterior of a building or buildings and the inside office or room where the story takes place [ remember, you don't have to take me literally.  Maybe your story takes place on a ship.  Which means you'll want to show the ship on the water and from the cabin, etc. ].  Give them some range.  Just drawing muscular super heroes won't make for good samples.  Show as much as the story allows and as much as your skill set can handle.  

You may have hundreds of drawings you would like to submit [ in person at a show or via email or snail mail ] but don't.  Too much is never a good thing.  Inevitably, if you have hundreds of drawings or sample pages that means that they vary in degrees of quality.  You only want to show your best work.  And you don't to give them too much because the more you send the more chances they'll have to see something they don't like.  Leave them wanting more.  To be honest, if you draw 5 nice pages, that's all you need.  Maybe throw in a faux cover and make it six!  But that should be enough.  If they want to see more then that's a good thing.  Ask them for a sample script at that point.  It means you're building a rapport.  

To reiterate, you never need to show a publisher, editor or an artist at a convention more than 5 to 10 pages of samples.  No one really wants to look at more than that.  5 to 10 pages is plenty for an editor to assess your talent level and give you an assignment.

What about including pieces of art that aren't comic book pages?  Well, let's think about that for a minute.  What exactly will they be hiring you to do?  Draw pictures of their character posing without backgrounds?  Headshots?  Nope.  They're going to hire you to draw comic book pages.  So why would they want to see stuff that looks like it could belong in a sketch book?  They wouldn't.  So don't waste their time.  You may want to include a faux cover but it's really not necessary.  Editors are smart enough to know that if you can draw a comic book page that you can probably draw a single image for a cover.

With your comic book page samples ready to go, make some clean copies of them or scan them.  Email or mail them to the editor you wish to work for.  Never send originals.  If your pages are fairly general and you've come up with a generic hero to fill your story - you may be able to get away with submitting samples to many publishers at once.  Excellent!  Keep the opening email short and sweet.  Introduce yourself and get to the point.  No sob story.  No, "I want this so bad!".  Nope.  Just make it professional and let your work do the talking.  If you're emailing your samples [ provided you've found the editor's email address, of course ] make sure the files aren't too large.  I know you're proud of your work, but don't send huge files.  Nothing more than 150 DPI is necessary via email [ in fact, 72 is probably fine ].  At 100% viewing size the pages shouldn't take too much scrolling to see them in their entirety.  

Less is more when it comes to art samples.  

Next week we'll discuss the option of self publishing and working on spec.  The following week we'll discuss what to do when an editor agrees to give you an assignment.

  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Breaking Into Comics: Part Two

Mon Oct 11, 2010, 4:37 PM
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Like most comic book artists [ or working artists in any capacity ] I get a lot of "How can I break into comics?" questions. Regardless of how talented you are the answers are all pretty similar.

PART TWO: Baby Steps


Let's get you a job.  Let's say you don't have an opportunity to go to NYC [ or wherever it is that the comic book or graphic album company you wish to work for is located ] - how do you get hired?  Samples.  You need great samples to get noticed.  

Every working comic book editor has a wealth of talent at his/her disposal.  If an artist can't complete his deadline and they have to find another artist or they have a new book that needs drawing - they have a Phone Book filled with numbers to call.  Ideally, you want to be in that Rolodex.  So how do you do that?  You have to impress them.  You have to impress them so much that they want to call you instead of another working artist.  The problem is: You don't have the experience that these other guys do.  That makes it kinda tough....

So let's rewind a bit.  Maybe starting with Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or Image isn't the first thing you do.  You need samples and your samples only get better by creating more and more of them.  All of us have at least a hundred "bad" pages in us.  Yep, they're in there and there's only one way to get them out. It's not by drawing more pin-ups of Power Girl.  You actually have to draw comic book pages.  Comic book pages force you to draw things you're not familiar with.  Pages help you see things in a different way and explore and expand your talent base in ways that drawing a "hot chick" or "Wolverine flexing his muscles and showing off his claws" can't.  Drawing a page with an underground hi-tech secret headquarters in one panel and Alfred the Butler in a normal kitchen in the next...  The initial ones will look okay upon first inspection - but chances are - they'll be "bad".  Don't despair. Practice really does make perfect.  You need to start small and build.  You might have to start very small.  But no matter how small the assignment - you'll be taking a step in the right direction.  That's the key element here.  Baby steps.  One step leading to another.  One small job to another.  

Only your work can take you to the next level.  If your work doesn't merit advancement or a better job, it means you need to apply yourself more.  Here's my advice to you:  When you're starting out - take that terrible job - no matter what it pays.  Do your absolute best work on it.  If the job pays $5 - treat it like you're being paid $5,000!  Because, at the end of the assignment you can take that work and get a better paying job with it.  You'll have samples in your hand that will hopefully impress another editor at a bigger company.  You'll have working experience.  You'll know how long it takes you to draw a page.  You'll learn so many lessons from that one crummy job that you would of paid them if you could have!  

Depending on your growth curve, you may need several of these jobs.  You may need to draw, ink or color several issues in a row at a smaller company before developing your talent to move to a larger company.  But here's the thing, when you're ready - you'll be ready.  If your samples aren't up to par, you'll know.  You'll know because you won't be hired.  Which is why I said, always do your best work - every chance you get.  

Doing enough to get the assignment finished doesn't help you in the long run.  Forcing yourself to work harder forces you to grow and improve.  I knew an artist that NEVER did his best work.  He was always waiting for someone to pay him what he believed he deserved.  To this day, he hasn't done his best work.  It's in him somewhere, waiting... But here's funny part about that:  What publisher is going to pay you an astronomical amount of money for something they've never seen evidence of.  Where is this "Best Work"?  It doesn't exist because you haven't been paid enough to draw it...  But an editor can't guess what you're capable of and therefore pay you accordingly.  They have to see some your best work.  If your work is excellent, your rate will reflect that.  But until you deliver excellent work, you're going to be paid based on what you're currently handing in. That old saying, "you're only as good as your last job" is very true.  And it's also very important that every job you do, you show improvement.  

So, always draw to the best of your ability.  The next time your draw something, you'll have that experience on your side.  It'll be easier.  And, of course, you'll have terrific samples to show around which will lead to bigger and better things!  

So how do you get in to the Big Three [ or Four ]?  You have to kiss a lot of frogs along the way.  And those kisses need to be dripping with love!  You can't fake them.  Otherwise, you can't expect any magic.  

Next week, I'll discuss how to submit samples and in what quantities.  See you then.

  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Breaking Into Comics, Part One

Mon Oct 4, 2010, 5:43 PM
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Like most comic book artists [ or working artists in any capacity ] I get a lot of "How can I break into comics?" questions.  Regardless of how talented you are the answers are all very much universal.

I'm going to write a series of Journals that address this question.  Step by Step.  From the day an artist makes that crucial career defining decision to getting and maintaining steady work flow.

PART ONE: Developing your Inner Critic

You've been drawing for a while and all of your friends and family think you could "do this for a living".  And, at long last, you've decided that drawing for a paycheck is going to make you happy and pay the bills.  Okay, now what?  How do you get your first paying job and set the world on fire?

The first thing you need to do is critically examine your own work.  This is the most important step.  Is your art ready to be published or do you need more work?  Well, contrary to your first impulse - which is to get the opinion of a working professional or that of your best friend/biggest fan - you need to look within.  You actually know the answer.  I hope you do.  I mean, you want to make a career of this, right?  So, ideally, you've practiced drawing for hours on end.  Maybe you've attended an art school.  Regardless of how you've acquired your drawing skills, I'm hoping you have a level of artistic taste.

Here's what you do:  Draw FIVE comic book pages.  If you can't get a hold of a script - use your imagination or rip one off an old story you remember. No one is going to hire you based on how well you draw a mock cover or pin-up.  You need to draw some sample pages.  Maybe you don't know what tools to use?  Uh-oh... Guess what?  You need to draw more.  Because you'll figure out which ones work best for you.  Asking your favorite professional which pencil or pen they use is not the answer.  Because it's not the pencil - it's who's pushing that pencil that makes it sing.  You need to develop your own style and that means you need to grow as an artist and experiment with tools until you have a look that you, personally, are satisfied with.

Are you done?  Good.  Now, pick up a typical comic book.  Not one drawn by Alex Ross, Mike Mignola or Sean Murphy.  And not one drawn by an artist that is widely thought of as a "terrible artist".  Nope.  Pick up a typical comic book.  Pick up a few of them.  Regular Marvel or DC titles that are selling decently.  That's your benchmark.  Your answer is right there.  Take a look at the comic book in front of you and ask yourself: "Can I draw as well as this guy?"  Can you draw everything he or she has drawn just as competently?  Not necessarily in the same style but with the same level of professionalism?  That's the key.  Can you draw cars well?  Can you draw backgrounds?  Can you draw a dog, a cat or an elephant?  How about a telephone?  Because the scripts you get will require you to draw just about everything.  Your level of drawing is not based on your ability to draw Batman perched on a gargoyle above Gotham City.  

So, now you've asked yourself the tough question.  If you answered "Yes" then you're ready to move on to Part Two.  If you answered "No" [ which requires a great deal of maturity on your behalf ] then you're going to have to ask: Why?  What skills are you lacking?  Is it storytelling?  Is it your anatomy?  Maybe you've only drawn figures but never a background.  Maybe you only draw figures facing forward.  

Basically you need to address your weaknesses.  But "how", you might ask.  Good news.  There's a book for you.  It's called How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way.  "Oh noooooo!" you might say, "That book looks like it was made over thirty years ago!  No one draws like that anymore!  I wanna draw like Jim Lee or Jeffery Scott Campbell!"

Everything you need to know is in-between those pages.  Everything.  If you can master that book [ and few people can ] you'll become a top artist.  Don't worry, you won't end up drawing like John Buscema when you're done.  You'll be influenced by him but influenced in a good way.  Your style is going to come through [ unless you consciously try to draw just like him, it's not going to happen ].  It's like people that say they don't want to lift weights because they don't want their arms to get too big...  If only it were that easy.  No, going through that book will give you the strong foundation you need to become a solid comic book artist.  Whether you like Manga or abstract storytelling/art like Ted McKeever.  It doesn't matter.  You don't need a fancy book on Perspective or on Figure Drawing.  

Also, it never hurts to attend Life Drawing classes.  Even if you cartoon your work, drawing from life will improve your craft in ways you never imagined.  All the best cartoonists have practiced Life Drawing.  Don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.  Here's the trick: Don't worry about being terrible at first.  And don't go to Life Drawing classes and stay within your comfort zone.  Try earnestly to draw the human form using tone.  Using shadow.  Drawing the figure like a cartoon is not going to help you understand form better.  Drawing what you see, realistically, will.  Then, take what you learn and apply it to your cartooned style later.  You'll be blown away by the results.  On a side note: I've seen more than my fair share of "professional artists" that are too intimidated to attempt Life Drawing.  It's a real shame.  They make every excuse in the book too.  It's pathetic and they wonder why their abilities remain stagnant.  Don't be a coward and fall back on things you already know.  If you want to improve, dare to fail.  Each time you attempt it, the results will improve.  I have miles and miles to go as an artist and resisted Life Drawing for many years.  Finally, I took the leap!  Guess what - I sucked.  It was so embarrassing.  But, each time I improved, little by little and I'm still improving.  Nothing has helped my drawing more.  

NEXT:  Part Two - Knocking On That Door

  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Why Dave Wants Llamas Revealed!

Tue May 25, 2010, 7:23 PM
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This really sickens me - mainly because I have a deep respect for Llamas, but when I stumbled into a local latrine I couldn't believe my own eyes.

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I'm not sure how, but :icondevilpig: has managed to transform Llamas into Urinal Cakes!  According to some sales charts [ which I found on the Internet ], he's making a bloody fortune!

If you gave a llama to Dave, someone has probably already soiled it in one form or another.  Dave's clients aren't exactly Fortune 500 companies.  After all, what kind of place would even buy Llama Cakes for their urinals?!?!?

Do me a favor.  Give me a llama badge instead of giving one to Dave.  I'm sure that after I turn this photo over to the authorities an investigation will ensue - but until he's properly shut down, I don't want to see anymore llamas harmed and turned into Urinal Cakes!

BTW, :iconstephenbjones: could use a llama badge or two as well.  Thanks.

UPDATE:  Thanks to a generous benefactor [ who will remain anonymous unless he wishes to be named! ] I've pulled ahead to FANCY LLAMA!!!  At long last!  My dreams have come true and in doing so, defeated the Devil(pig) all in one fell swoop!

Man, it feels good.  Thanks to everyone that donated badges!  Hit me here if I didn't throw you one back and I'll gladly return the favor!

LONG LIVE LLAMAS and down with :icondevilpig:  ( sometimes good does conquer evil! tee-hee! )

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Times
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!
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Give the llamas what they want - ME!  Take a look below and see for yourself.  

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Take that :icondevilpig:  

Special thanks to :iconshmisten: for bringing a video camera to the Los Angeles Llama Convention.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Times
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!

LLAMA SLAUGHTER FARM!!!

Sun May 23, 2010, 9:09 PM
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Oh gosh...  I don't like this. I don't like this at all. An undercover Team Urbanbarbarian Llama member found this on :icondevilpig: 's Members Only Pay Website!

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If you want your llamas to land up being "mistreated" and probably killed for sport - send a llama his way.  I'm sure his fancy "Kraven the Hunter" outfit isn't cheap.  

But if you give a damn about llamas [ and I think you do ] send one or two my way.  Llamas run free on Team Urbanbarbarian's Llama Ranch.  It's a paradise for Llamas. Just ask :iconstephenbjones: he'll tell you.  By the way, throw him a llama if you have any extra lying around.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Times
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!

The Reverend's 'love' for Llamas!

Sun May 23, 2010, 1:01 AM
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Okay... Things are starting to make more sense now.  I just happened to be Googling "Dave Johnson", "Sadam" and "Sicko Llama Fun" and look what popped up on page 7 of the search engine:

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...Yeah.  The puzzle is starting to form a pretty clear picture of why :icondevilpig: is so keen on llamas.  

Do me a favor, friend, if you have a spare llama badge - give it to me for safe keeping.  Because the last thing you want to do is give a llama badge to Dave and his kind.  Llamas aren't meant to made sport of.  They're lovely little creatures that can grow up and become Ninjas or even Kings.  

If you love llamas - send one my way and not Dave's.  You'll sleep better tonight.

Peace.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: google search engines
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!

Horrible News about Devil Pig!

Sat May 22, 2010, 5:14 PM
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I hate to bring this sort of thing up because it involves digging in the past.  And as far as I feel, the past is the past - but somethings need to be remembered.  This, unfortunately, needs to be remembered.

Everyone knows:icondevilpig: calls himself Devil Pig.  But few people know that he is indeed a sinister mixture of both devil and pig.  Sounds impossible?  I thought so too.  Until I found the above photograph.  Makes you think, doesn't it?

It made me question my friendship with such a man.  Llamas aside, I used to think Dave was a decent human being.  

Not now.  

Looks like he doesn't age, makes nice with super-baddies and has a distinct dislike for Llamas.

My advice to you?  If it's possible, take your llama back from Dave and give it either myself or :iconstephenbjones:

You'll probably get a medal for such valiant behavior.

PS - Dave has no intention of living up to his, "I'll release my Micronaut designs if you give me a llama" bargain.  In fact, he has no Micronaut designs.  I'm begging you, don't trust him.

And while you're at it - throw a llama my way if have any to spare.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Badge info
  • Watching: My beautiful Llama get Fancy!
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Yep.  :icondevilpig: sent me this a few years ago.  Apparently he scored his very first threesome and couldn't be more proud.  For days, weeks really, he told me every lurid detail of the encounter - right down to his breathing patterns and some of his "parlor tricks" he employed during the six hour ordeal.  

I was sickened by the whole affair but I tried to be supportive.  That's the kind of friend I am.  Now look how he's behaving.  Is that what you call a friend?  I'm worried for him.

I'm worried, but I also don't want him getting to crazy with this llama business.  Giving Dave a llama is the worst thing you can do for him.  Find a way to take llamas away from him.  THAT's whats gonna help him learn a lesson or two.

Give me a llama.  Give :iconstephenbjones: a llama. That makes sense.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Badge info
  • Watching: My beautiful Llama get Fancy!

LLAMA MOB!!!

Fri May 21, 2010, 3:09 PM
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UPDATE:
     So now it turns out :iconseangordonmurphy: has teamed up with Dave to crush Jones-Z-Kitty and I...!!!

     Meanwhile, get this, rumor has it that Dave breeds his llamas for sport!  Basically, he mistreats llamas.  Personally, I don't like that sort of thing.  And, really, you shouldn't either.

     Sean doesn't like llamas but he's sided with Dave because he's a malcontent and probably wants in on some sicko llama action!  Dave makes promises and Sean has fallen for his syrupy charms!

     Tim... Hrrmmph.  Something about his llamas really upsets me.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but something is rotten in Denmark there...!

     BTW, Dave mentions some fairly good reasons to give him a llama but the truth is - he doesn't follow the "Take a llama - Give a llama" philosophy.  Not surprising... A classic Llama Glutton.




For cry'n out loud!  That blasted :icondevilpig: and :icontimtownsend: have started to accumulate massive Llama Badges!

It really sears my ahi!

I've already angered my wife with foolish llama business - but I'm sorry, she's gonna have to suffer.  I love her but Llamas come first these days.

The only person that understands my Llama Fever seems to be :iconstephenbjones:

That guy is sick with Llama Fever too!

I've given him a llama.

And I'll give you one too, if you give me one.  It's a beautifully simple transaction.  An almost zen like experience.

LLAMA MOB - Go Team Urban Barbarian and Team Jones-Z-Kitty!!!!

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Badge info
  • Watching: My beautiful Llama get Fancy!

LLAMA FEVER Update!!!

Fri May 21, 2010, 1:08 AM
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Llama Update!  So it seems :icondevilpig: wants a Fancy Llama too!  But he wants one before I get mine!  This is NOT cool.  Dave should be happy if he gets a Ninja Llama.  I don't think he quite deserves a Fancy Llama.  But what do I know!  I wonder if there's a way to take Llama Badges away from people...

Also, don't you think the Llama Badge should be slightly bigger? :iconsteamboatwillie: bought my llama a bow-tie and I really want :icondevilpig: to see it and lose his ever'love'n mind.  Tonight at Drink and Draw, the first thing he said to me was "Dude, when did your llama get a cape?!?!?"

I had finally one up'd him.  Damn, it felt good.

Thanks again for the cape, :iconpixeltease:

Alright, below is my original Journal:

I'm a grown man and I have a serious case of LLAMA FEVER!

I hear there is such a thing as a "Fancy Llama"... I don't know what to do with information like that.  I know one thing though: I want that damn badge!

I have strange dreams these days.  Dreams of me with my Fancy Llama making friends with the Ninja Llama.  We're all hanging out and having the time of our life.  It's heaven.

Is this a sickness or have I stumbled upon Nirvana?

Llamas make sense to me.  At least something does.

  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Badge info
  • Watching: My beautiful Llama get Fancy!