Thursday, June 26

Store Signing with Matt and Kelly Sue

I got to sit in on a Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick signing at Asheville’s Comic Envy (the retail helicarrier of flatbear), and it was a ball. I offered free sketches with a polite solicitations for tips and donations for a charity named later by the House DeFraction. I cranked out about 30 drawings (most of which you can see here).

(Quick aside for other artists: I’ve had a tip jar for three events now in two years, and people are far more generous and grateful than you might presume. The hefty sums I’ve accumulated are more a tribute to their good natures than my skills, but it speaks to our communal enthusiasm about original pop-culture art. Try it at at Free Comic Book Day or a random mid-week appearance at a local store. When you’re done, spend some of that money at the store. Everyone wins. I got to hand over a tidy stack of cash to our guests for charity at the end of the day.)

This was a solid epilogue to HeroesCon, preventing the usual sad crash after a show, and I got to talk comics all day. In fact, any time I got a little sore (from horrible posture) or anxious about the backlog of art to make, I said this to myself: You’re sitting in a comic store and drawing all day. What else would you rather be doing? Head space re-calibrated, I smiled my way through Deadpools, and She-Hulks, and Hawkeyes.

Comics, people. COMICS.

(Second aside for artists: if you’re drawing at a store event, bump the new walk-ins to the front of your sketch list. Put the regular customers with pull lists to the back. Draw their pictures when you can and put them in the pull folders. The next time those customers come to the store, the art will be waiting for them. You also might encourage the walk-ins to become regular customers. I think three people made pull folders yesterday to pick up their art later.)

Our special guests were very encouraging when I showed them my trade (which you can buy here and coming to Comixology any day now) and set me in a proper direction now that it’s printed. I cannot thank them enough for sharing the day. And let’s here it for Comic Envy for throwing a whale of a New Comic Day.

At the end of the day, I felt like I could have pulled a second shift. I was elated. Then I stopped by Five Guys Burgers and converted my wife The Countess to their fries, and we sprawled about the house like we were in an opium den.

A good day.

And The Deputy turns four today, and he got a proper Spidey mask, and we’ll never see his face again.

Monday, June 23

HeroesCon 2014

A fantastic time with a great table partner, Flatbear. That's it in a nutshell. You can see all the pictures here.
But there's much more.

Checked in an unloaded early enough to see the new X-Men movie in a cinema restaurant. Grabbed a Five Guys meal and collapsed into a burger coma.

Started with a bang and quick commission requests. Again, the biz card sketches were my bread-and-butter. We had a great table location. I let friends borrow my room to change into costumes. A few hours later, someone I know only online showed me a picture of my suitcase in my hotel room. The hotel had checked him into my room (same last name). Were he not a good guy, I could have lost all my stuff and never known how. I'm still waiting for the hotel to fix this or at least acknowledge something bad happened. Had he not told me I wouldn't have know. Except they deactivated MY room key when he informed them. I bought a number of toys for my son but quickly returned to my table to take advantage of the brisk business. We had dinner at Outback to decompress from a very busy day.

Sold a lotta Dr. Who prints (which you can get here) and some Loki prints (which you also get here). Continued meeting many of Flatbear's online followers and members of the Carol Corps. We enjoyed all the costumes on display and had Five Guys for supper. I kept the burger coma at bay by visiting the hotel bar and checking in occasionally with the convention art auction. I intended to make and submit a piece Saturday morning, but commissions shoved that aside.

The second I walk away from the table to shop, someone dropped off their sketchbook for a commission. Murphy's Law. But I busted out a surprisingly good Iron Giant for it, and I'm glad I returned to the table so soon to get to work. Then I went shopping and got toys for the boy and me. I also found the 501st Legion section with life-size Star Wars sets. My God. Of course I jumped into that (literally).

That was eclipsed by seeing my very first con sketch from 2008. The gentleman brought it back to show me his son's old con sketchbook and to ask for a sketch in his daughter's book. The idea that he remembered and found me and brought it was too much. I was flabbergasted. Just amazing. And right before the con ended, I taped up a busted boot for an X-23 cosplayer with masking tape.

The whole weekend was amazing. HeroesCon is always a party, on either side of the tables, and I look forward to next year's show. I'd do it this weekend if possible.

BUT I have a mini-con Wednesday when I sit in with Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick at Asheville's Comic Envy. I'll do free sketches with a collection jar for donations and tips. The DeFractions will choose the charity for the proceeds.

Here's the full list of art made and sold during the convention:
Turok, Son of Stone (loved that comic as a kid)
Hannibal Lecter
Will Graham
Dr. Who (nine)
Thanos vs. Angela
Hulk as Elsa from Frozen
Heath Ledger Joker
Sexy Venom (following last year's Sexy Red Skull)
Tyrion Lannister
Dr. Who (eleven)
Starfire (cartoon version)
Dr. Who (eight, ten, and eleven)
Dr. Doom
Lumberjane April
Iron Man
Blue Beetle
Captain America
Ms. Marvel
Iron Giant
Harry Potter
Tina from Bob's Burgers
Kate Bishop

Monday, June 9

Making a DragonCon Costume: Another Adventure

In a previous post, I talked about the idea of making a Littlefinger costume when one (OK, me) doesn't know how to sew. I decided to abstract the costume for practical concerns, such as my total lack of putting threaded needle to clothes and the Atlanta climate in September among 52,000 people (about the size of Hoboken, NJ). I went into my first fabric store to see what options I had for making a costume, starting with no set notion of how this would be done. I was a blank slate.

A few days after, I went into another such store, this time a member of a national franchise -- 790 stores in 49 states, says their website. But this store is much more than fabrics; it covers crafts and art supplies and hokey smoke this store is huge. Immediately, I found a larger sample of fabrics and pieces of a potential costume. Of course, I would have been overwhelmed had I gone here first. I am grateful to have wandered through the first, smaller store. I blow them David Letterman kisses. God love ya.

However, this second store was the sewing equivalent of Toys R Us. I could see how making costumes could be addictive. If someone (not me) knew what they were doing, this would be a regular haunt, sucking dry the wallet on a weekly basis. I am not that person because I have not yet experienced the crushing defeat of failed ideas and time management. My crafting adventure is all hypothetical right now, all shiny and new like romance on the Love Boat. I float in a fog of blissful ignorance. I intend to enjoy this while it lasts, but that knowledge is balanced by an awareness that I need to get to work. I have to leave time for failure and recovery and hangovers and apologies and second and third tries.

Remember, we're working of this costume style abstracted for comfort and low skill level. Here's what I found:

Hi, textured fabrics. We gonna be friends.

I'm thinking the bulk of the work will be folding and fastening the fabric atop itself. Then I'll look at attaching it to the jacket. But what to what extent? Do I anchor it to the jacket at both edges of each strip? Do I make a backing panel beneath the folds and attach that panel to the jacket? Can I affix this at the shoulders only/ Do I only anchor the top fabric only at the neckline? No option is excluded yet.

The other bit of work will be the gold accents, and the above picture makes it more obvious that they are lines of gold dots. I saw some possibilities for these in the first store, including individual beads or flat ribbons. This second store gave me what I was looking for.

A string of sequins would be easier to attach. I wouldn't have to set each one onto the fabric. Maybe I could sew the string to that "Celtic poncho" every three inches or so. That sounds OK to June Me, but admittedly maybe less so to August Me.

Still, whether they are individual or on strings, sequins already make me paranoid that they will detach. I can see that hovering over my brain all day, making me fear each small and unavoidable collision at DragonCon. They will average out to about one every minute. But sewing would be more dependable than the iron-on nailheads. The change of climates moving inside and out at the convention would weaken those. What about the one thing I didn't find at the first store?

Paint paint paint. To me, at this point, the more attractive option is to sit and dab hundreds of dots onto the fabric. I've done similar work in earlier non-costume projects. I can zone out and get that done, unlike with sewing which will require my alert attention at each step. A strong paint or dye can survive a hectic day of movement and grazes. A 3D paint can scrape off too. But a dye will set in the fabric. It won't go nowhere.

I might check another store or two for fabric options, but I think I found my dot solution. 

I also need to think about footwear. If I get new shoes for the costume, I'll need to break them in. I found these at Target.

This style will work fine. The jacket will cover the tops of my shoes, and unless I'm wearing Converse All-Stars, almost any shoe will do (as long as it's a loafer). I don't have to get these, of course. I can hit up thrift stores for shoes already broken in and cheaper. Broken in and cheaper, that's my gold standard.

I talked to my wife about what I had discovered, coincidentally while she was sewing another stole to her robes for graduation. She has practically more stoles than I have years in college. I felt pretty confident about the direction I was headed with the amount of time remaining, and then she asked the magic question.

"Why don't you let me sew it?"

Man, part of me would love to hand this off to her. She can do it. She would love to noodle through the same questions of construction and hit upon the perfect solution. But I want that too. I'm selfish about that. Also, I don't want to throw this at her and have her fix my problem. This is my costume with my set of obstacles to overcome. Walking away from it would mean I quit. And I'm old enough that I need to learn to sew.

I would not mind, I told her, learning at her side. Perhaps she could show me the first few stitches and hand it off. I could give it a try for a few feet of fabric and then have her inspect it. We can still tag-team on this, but I'd feel like a heel if I shrugged it off.

I did tell her that if I fell into the well of despair, I would gladly look to her for help, but it would not be at the last second. I would give her plenty of time to set the costume straight. That means I need to get started soon so I'll have that time to get my footing or give her time to rescue the project if I can't hack it.

Maybe by this time next week I'll make some stitches on a sample of fabric. Maybe.

GeekOut 2014

 You can see more pictures here.

This past weekend was my first at GeekOut, Asheville's two-day convention. I again worked a table on my own and this time I was between the Asheville Harry Potter Alliance and A Study in Polish. It was good company.

The show was kinda small for foot traffic, but it focused on workshops and panels. There were two costume contests and a Brony parade against bullying. I saw quite a bit from my table and did decent business.
Here's what I sold over the weekend. Once again, my business art cards carried the weekend sales.

+ an 8.5 x 11 color commission for an original character
+ an Elsa Frozen card sketch
+ Deadpool color card
+ A Doctor Who print
+ a Wolverine sketch
+ a Doctor Who card
+ a card of Louise from Bob's Burgers
+ a card of two brother attendees
+ a Hannibal Lecter card
+ a Will Graham card
+ a copy of my trade with a free Saga card
+ a Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz color card
+ a trade with a Pond card (Doctor Who)
+ a color Kahleesi card
+ a Doctor Who card
+ a trade with a free Magneto card
+ a Will Graham card
+ a Starfire color card (Teen Titans Go)
+ a Psylocke color sketch
+ a Lara Croft card
+ a trade with a free Captain Marvel card

So not bad. A LOT of Doctor Who interest in this show.

Wednesday, June 4

Making A DragonCon Costume: Sew Very Doomed

I've been to DragonCon a few times, and it's always more fun to go in costume. The convention is a four-day cosplay party, in addition to all the workshops and panels it offers. My costumes have been pretty easy to assemble by design. No sewing was required because "no sewing" is what I bring to the party. In 2011, I went as Shipwreck.

I ran into Shore Leave from Venture Brothers, and, for me, this is the photo of that year's show. The patch was ironed on, and the clothes were found at surplus stores. Making the bird was the hardest part, and that took maybe an hour. That's nothing. Compared to the cosplayers who spend hundred of hours on their costumes, my effort is meager. I did even less for the 2012 and 2013 costume: Commissioner Gordon from the recent Batman films.

It's a suit. All I did was shave. Basically, the costume is my face, and that's sheer coincidence. People asked if I at least had to gray my hair. No. I didn't even have to do that, says the old man (dressed as Oldman). But the oddest thing happened last year. People came up to me and said "you have to dress up as Littlefinger." And, of course, I said, "who the *!#% is Littlefinger?" Some folks even found a Littlefinger for me, and, based solely on this guy's presentation, I had to admit, yeah, they got a point.

Then I had to figure out how I could do that. Well, first, I had to watch some Game of Thrones then I had to figure out how I could do that. I Googled a photo of the character for my wife, and she said I was a dead ringer. Again, sheer coincidence. But it's handy for me, Mister No Sew, the costume cobbler. Once more, my face will be the costume. I don't have to be so faithful to the Littlefinger clothes to sell the cosplay.

When you Google Littlefinger costume reference, this outfit comes up the most often.

Yeah, I don't think I can do that. I learned how to cross stitch in seventh grade (the same class that taught me how to bake), but that dusty set of skills seems inadequate for this. So if I can't duplicate the outift, how can I approximate it?

Since we're now abstracting, let's consider the practical matters. That outfit is gorgeous. That outfit looks like it weighs quite a bit. Stout, layered material. They film this show in the northern United Kingdom and Iceland. I will be in Atlanta. In September. Amid 40,000 people squished shoulder to shoulder. 

The first thing I can do is work with thinner materials. Then I can see about suggesting the costume in the simplest ways. I shopped online for the base layer, which would be the hottest, and settled on a Matrix Neo coat from a costume retailer. I didn't get the expensive models. I went cheap. If I work with the coat and ruin it, I can order another without freaking out. I can also play with it knowing a replacement is handy and affordable. It's nylon, and even I know it won't accept a dye to get that pattern we see above. Again, I'm approximating. So, for now, bottom layer done. Let's work on that Celtic poncho. Let's (Google fabric store, find the local shops, plan my trips during lunch breaks, try not to embarrass myself) go to the fabric store! 

Yesterday, I went inside the first store just to take it in. I had no intention of buying anything. That will come after I see what all my options are. I know I am starting from the ground floor so my first reactions to the inventory will be quaint and wrong, you expert cosplayers. I have zero illusions of matching your product and skill sets and experience. I salute your work, and I am constantly delighted to see what a knowledgeable set of hands can craft for these shows. Truly astounding. Me, I just want to get through one day. Unless my finished product (clothes + face) is a hit, I'll shuck and shave and dress up as Gordon for the second of my two days in Atlanta.I've never taken two costumes to DragonCon. If my Littlefinger doesn't work, I can be Gordon in 15 minutes. That takes some pressure off.

So here's what I found.

Hey, what if I use a shower curtain for the top layer? Maybe not this one. It has too many folds, but the texture and color aren't bad. Already I'm considering alternatives to yards of cloth bought from a bolt. That's good. At this level, I'm just brainstorming. I'm Iron Chef Cosplay.

Oh, but that top layer turns out to be screwy.

It isn't symmetrical. Well, crap. I thought I could just drape the Celtic poncho upon my lucky shoulders. HOW EASY IS THIS COSPLAY! HOW VICTORIOUS I SHALL BE! No. Maybe I should cheat and just drape it at equal lengths in front and back. And maybe I will. But for now, let's play this out. How would I do this? I could probably sew the top layer to the back of the Neo coat. A thin layer wouldn't tear the coat like a heavy material would, and it would make the back of the costume cooler to wear all day. Let's put that on the back burner for now.

The larger concern of the layer is the gold accent. It looks like lots of gold dots. How can I fake that? 

I found some ribbony ribbons that might work. OK. Those are new options. What else?

String trim perhaps. OK. What else?

Well now. This could be handy. I like the idea of this texture on the clothes, but the color seems too bright. But not bad.

Oh hey, something called spacer beads. Slide them on a gold thread and sew the line to the fabric? Hmm. That might take a lot of beads. That could get heavy too.

What I didn't find in the fabric store was dye. Any kind of fabric paint at all. (I also was not asked once if I needed help even as I took a dozen+ pictures and lapped the store numerous times. Maybe it was because I was a guy. I have the same isolation when I shop for my wife's clothes.) I wondered about just putting gold paint on the poncho. I could dab a pencil eraser in the paint and make those rows in like an hour, right? I wouldn't have to worry about the thread or beads or string coming undone. Yes. Yes, I like this idea.

I already ordered a mockingbird pin, and I'll need to find that thin belt. But those are details, and they can wait. For now, I feel pretty good about the more significant components of the costume. And that's just after one trip to one store. VICTORY MAY YET BE MINE!

Or I might dissolve into weeping nihilism. It's fifty-fifty at this point.