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The Artist is Dead: Chapter 1

I stage-managed a production of “The Matchmaker” in high school, and was struck by the truth of a line uttered by the character Horace Vandergelder. It was something to the effect of “Art is something no one needs any of the time.” I paid an undue amount of attention to everything Mr. Vandergelder did during that production, as I was madly in love with the boy playing him. Regardless, there’s still a certain verity to these words. Art is frivolous, and non-essential.

One thing I have learned since making my living as a writer and artist is how very little respect some people have for those working in the creative industry. Despite the non-essential, wholly unnecessary nature of art, when people want it (though of course, never NEED it) they can become quite belligerent. It’s almost as if art, be it written, performance or fine, is actually something very essential and acutely necessary after all.

Early in my career as a freelance illustrator, I indulged in many email exchanges with prospective clients attempting to convince me that my work had no real value. I was informed what I did wasn’t a real job, it was a hobby at best, and I should be glad enough to be graced with an opportunity for exposure. It was selfish and lazy of me to try and earn money off things I just…drew!

One client even compalined to me that my pictures were getting harder to steal off of another client of mine’s website.

“Ughh, you must be trying to sell them or something.” He spat with disgust.

“Yeah, it’s my job.” I answered.

“Oh, you see, I’m enslaved by all that materialism!” He blustered, before launching into tales of his drug addled, teenage misadventures.

I think he was fixated on that era of his life because it was the last time he had financial security, thanks to his parent’s  being “enslaved by all that materialism.” He’s in his 60’s now, and from time to time, gets high and starts texting me about the comic book we’re going to write together. Except I have to make the script, and do the illustrations, inking, lettering and colour. He’s just going to oversee the thing.

I don’t get paid of course, but I get half the royalties…promise.

These clients are of course easy enough to refuse or scare off by acting like a “normie”. Far worse are those who’ve learned to play the game, know the rules inside and out, and exactly how to ensnare an unsuspecting artists in the loopholes.

I am writing this piece in chapters, as a warning to others working in the creative industry. I want to walk you through the process of a manipulation in play, step by step, so that you can identify the signs when you see them. Many of us are introverted, private people, and less attuned to social cues than more experienced fraternizers. We second guess ourselves, and strive to placated people too often. Don’t fall into the trap of compromising yourself or your better judgement to appease a client, no matter what awards they boast, or connections they can claim. There are vicious people out there who prey on those they can convince to bend over backwards for them, a position which leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Never trust that someone has your best interests at heart, more often than not, they won’t.

HEWER

I came in contact with the man through a comic book convention. I was a guest in artist alley, which meant a long day of sitting at a table, trying to beckon people over to buy my art and graphic novels. He passed by, and I complemented him on what I believed was a retro cosplay ensemble.

“You’re terribly attractive, may I take your picture?” I asked.

It wasn’t very much different than any number of ice breakers I’d launched during the course of the day. On this occasion however, the inflation of ego was actually palpable. This passer-by was only too delighted with an opportunity to talk about himself. I soon discovered, being a captive audience member as I was, he was dressed for a panel he’d be presenting later that evening. He would be assuming the character of a time traveler from the year 1964. His performance, he assured me, was regularly regarded as far superior to other panelists seen at these sorts of functions. With all that out-of-the-way, he at last introduced himself to me as Hewer.

Hewer: One who cuts wood, stone or other materials

To Hew: To sever from the whole by means of cutting blows

No, of course it’s not his real name, but for the purpose of this blog, we will be referring to him by it.

My husband, Weirdsley, and I attended Hewer’s panel. It was interesting enough. In the tradition of panels it was long, dry, and a bit self congratulatory. We were a little disturbed when afterwards, he decided to sit at our table and deliver an exhaustive harangue about himself. It was a subject he was clearly infatuated by. No detail was spared in tales of his work as an author slash historian and how he was the backbone of a Hugo nominated website. I smiled, and nodded respectfully at first. After a time, I felt myself, leaning ever so slightly away from him as he spoke, only to have him draw closer in reply. I held up my camera to record the band, now playing on the stage he had formerly occupied. I had hoped to gently suggest that the conversation had reached its inevitable conclusion. After what seemed like hours, he at last relented, but not before introducing me to his wife and daughter.

“She called me terribly attractive,” he divulged, “and I’ve been smitten ever since.”

We’d only been aware of one another for an hour or two. I wasn’t sure if this repartee was meant more to embarrass me or for him to bask in the compliment once again. My husband and I shot one another bewildered glances as he mercifully departed.

Back in the safety of our hotel room, Weirdsley delivered his verdict of our newfound friend.

“A little needy…but probably a decent fellow.”

I’ve come to depend on his insights with regards to people. The social arena is one that’s still unwieldy to me, then there’s the added component of marketing to contend with. Being someone more at home in the solitude of my own thoughts and the creative endeavors born from them, all conversations feel like some level of infraction to me.

“He said he won a Hugo award, I dunno, is he a good connection? Is this networking? Do you think I should have him on the podcast? ” I asked, still profoundly discombobulated.

I run two podcasts as an extension of the universe in my “Lost Bread” graphic novels. One being an audio drama, the other an interview show, set in that same world dynamic. The latter I had just recently started, and was hungry for guest material.

“Well, he loves to talk.” My husband offered with a shrug of his shoulders, “Why not?”

Why not indeed? I made arrangements with Hewer via email, and was even invited into his home to conduct the interview.

“If you dress for 1964, we could take pictures for cross promotion.” He promised.

Having a number of costumes at my disposal, I went with a B movie space girl get up, complete with plastic bubble helmet. After squeezing myself into this, and very nearly suffocating inside the a giant plexiglass dome of my helmet, imagine my disappointment at being greeted by a man in a polo shirt, jean shorts and bare feet.

“Did you forget we were doing this today?” I asked, lifting the trail of my space gown and stepped through the front door.

“No, I’m ready for you.” He replied, “take your shoes off.”

I groaned but obligingly did as I was told and removed my space boots. I hadn’t intended to make this an extended stay.

He offered to make me lunch, a nice gesture but one which was used as a catalyst for interrogation.

“So you think I’m terribly attractive?” He asked, returning again to our first exchange, “You don’t say that to everyone though, do you?”

“Oh no, not everyone.” I explained, “I like to acknowledge people’s efforts, costuming and all that. I think people aren’t used to being paid compliments”

He seemed disappointed with this answer and proceeded to grill me on how I had acquired so many followers on social media. There was the distinct implication that I didn’t really deserve to have more followers than him, the Hugo award nominated webmaster. I pretended to be oblivious.

“I just go out to places, clubs, bars, talk to people about what I do.” I offered.

He seemed dubious. I immediately felt the need to justify my social media standing to this person I barely knew, as if I was being called out as a fake. How dare he disregard the hours of work and effort I put into my art, writing and podcasting. Did he just suppose it was luck? The privilege of having tits while online? Or did he mean to suggest I had bought my followers?

“I showcase musicians and bands on my show,” I explained, “so we sort of cross-pollinate with followers from that I guess.”

“Oh is that all?” He huffed, making no effort to disguise his incredulity.

“Yeah, it is.” I said, patently annoyed “You know, it’s not something that comes easy for me, mingling and that sort of thing, but no one’s going to discover my work if I stay locked up in my apartment!”

He’d succeeded in at last exposing a nerve, and dug in with furious abandon.

“Oh, you don’t like people then?” He probed.

My emotions got the better of me and I explained how I had always been a private person. I unwittingly indulged him with delectable tidbits about my sheltered childhood, various diagnoses from teachers playing armchair psychologists, and even actually psychologists who couldn’t quite agree on just what was wrong with me.  All of this he greedily drank up, and stored in his mental reservoir for later.

Despite the awkward conversation, I managed to finish my lunch. However, before the interview could begin, I first had to endure a tour of the house. The place was unsettling to me, though I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. Beyond Hewer’s hoarder tendencies, a room plastered with pictures of hungry eyed anime girls, and the Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine in the garage, there wasn’t anything too far out of the ordinary. Still, it felt strangely like I had stepped into an Otaku version of Neverland Ranch.

Perhaps my unease stemmed from the realization that beside the client, I was the only other person in this house. The interview went well enough, no funny business, but I felt a certain wash of relief come over me when his wife came through the door.

We ended up taking pictures, but just of me, in my costume, now wrinkled and soggy with sweat. I stood, ray gun in hand, next to a bar cabinet in his living room, a framed picture of the moon behind me for “atmosphere.” The end result looked more like a deranged pre-prom picture, but I figured I’d be able to edit the raw material into something usable to promote the episode’s release.

Before I left, he invited me to take part in a weekly Sunday meetup he an his friends held. My heart sank. I really had hoped to be done with all things Hewer.

“I’m really busy with editing and stuff for the show.” I explained, desperately grabbing for the door handle of my car.

“It’d be a good networking opportunity for your podcast!” He shot back.

Abroad grin sweeped over his face. He knew he’d sunk his hooks in.

“Oh God, this is networking isn’t it?”  I thought to myself.

If I pass up on this, then this whole uncomfortable evening will have been a waste. I had to do it, had to force myself, if only just this once. I’d come, make small talk, hand out my cards and be gone. I could manage that much.

I smiled, offered to attend, just this once, with my husband, and see how things went.

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Comicfest 2018

It’s been roughly two years since my last blog post, I hope you’ll forgive my negligence. You see I’m quite happy to while away the hours alone, with my work. I can commit myself to my writing (not blogs obviously) or painting for days on end. I fritter the time away, blissfully ignorant of where the dawn of one day begins and dusk bleeds into the first darkling hours of the next. Solitude is my refuge, but unfortunately as an artist by profession, I seldom make art for my own purpose. No, I am obligated to make art for other people, people who are rather unlikely to wander in to my hovel and discover my work. Ergo, if I hope to garner interest in said work, I cannot remain cheerfully withdrawn-and thus, I went to Comicfest 2018!

Me, banging my head against the wall in preparation for socializing … its a tremendously effective relaxation technique.

While this is my second Comicfest, the meet up was actually started by the original creators of the larger, and better known Comic-con International. Comicfest was born in protest of how commercial Comic-con International had become. While I still have a great love for Comic-Con, artists, especially independent one’s like myself, simply can’t compete with the inclusion of Hollywood studios and the star studded panels that they bring. Comic-con’s original inception,  in the 70’s, had been as a place where people, who shared a love of comic books, could meet with others who harboured the same passion. This was a time before Superhero movies had conquered the box office, and reading comicbooks was still seen as something a touch juvenile.

The Keating House Inn

Comicfest’s intimate environment allows for fans, artists, writers and other industry professionals to converse with one another. People from all walks of life congregate to discuss their passion for comics, fantasy, pop culture and scifi. Rather than sprawling out over the entirety of a convention center, this year’s Comicfest was held at The Town and Country Resort and Hotel in San Diego California. While this may seem an unusual location, Comic-Con in it’s infancy, was held at San Diego’s El Cortez Hotel. As an artist, the smaller venue means I won’t be swallowed up by the crowd, or drowned out by the fanfare for the latest blockbuster movie.

You are now entering Flavortown!

On the subject of hotels, my constant companion, Weirdsley, decided it might be nice to make a trip of the three day event, and booked us a room at The Keating House Inn. Weirdsley shares my passion for history, and the Keating House was a pleasurable indulgence in this. The home was build in the 1800’s, during a time of prosperity in San Diego, atop an area called Banker’s Hill. Today Banker’s Hill is home to many beautifully refurbished Victorian manors. The Keating House is one of the most resplendent, and features “The Yellow Room” which you might recognize as an inspiration for a room that features prominently in the “Lost Bread” series.

We readied ourselves for Comicfest with Breakfast at Hob Knob Hill Cafe and Bakery. It’s a beautiful little place adorned with stately wood columns and twinkling chandeliers. Perhaps even more impressive, is the fact that this eatery bears the Guy Fieri seal of approval.

Crab and avocado omelette with a side of spiced apples.

I had a crab and avocado omelette with the obligatory mimosa. I say obligatory because socializing with fellow humans is a rare enough occurance for me that I sometimes require a touch of assistance. By the time my second glass was empty, I was ready to greet the day.

After a rollicking, madcap romp around the premises in a hunt for both Le Summit Room, where I would be participant in Artist’s Alley, and an ATM so I could secure change for the day, I took my seat among my fellow artists. The walls of the room were lined with five, 6 foot tables. Each artist was allocated a 3×3 foot square in which to display and hopefully to sell their original artwork, prints and comics.

To my left was my  table mate, one Jeremy Cox. Jeremy is a reknowned industry professional whose worked for DC and has created his own original works “Vampirates”, “Zombie Love”, and “Skink and Skunk”.

To my right was Vince Alvendia of Beensentoe.com  He provided the illustration for the book “Dark Agents Book One: Violet and Trial of Trauma” by Janina Scarlet. FYI the book is scheduled to be released February 2019.

Directly accorss from me were Emily Rocha and Scott Lost of the Accidental Aliens . This organization is a group of talented San Diego artists and writers, who pool their collective talents in the creation of original comic series and story anthologies.

The company was intimidating to say the least. Fortunately, in a relaxed atmosphere such as Comicfest, artists at various stages of their career are free to talk with one another and benefit from each others insights and experience. There is no velvet rope seperating the comic virtuosos from the novices.

While the conversations between artists were lively, I must confess one of my favourite parts of Comicfest is always the cosplayers. I asked permission to snap a few pictures when one would walk past my table.You can check out my Instagram account for pictures and links to these cosplay artists personal profiles. I love the creativity and ingenuity that people apply to their ensembles.

I made a few free sketches to enertain myself

A sketch of one of my nieces as Black Canary.

 

 

and managed to sell out of “Lost Bread” volume 1.

Out of a run of 25 prints for volume 2, I sold all but 9. These survivors of the original run are available for purchase in my shop right now! Go get your very own!

In what I consider to be sort of a right of passage, this year I was very fortunate to acquire two commissions from art afficionados making their rounds through artists alley. I consider drawing pinup art and glamorous depic

A reference presented to me by the client.

tions of the female form to be my bailiwick and I was pleased that both requests were of that variety.

 

The finished product, done in Prismacolor markers.

The first request, for an anime mermaid, came with very specific instructions. The client told me the entire back story of the mermaid to be drawn. I really appreciated his inventiveness! Basically, this young mermaid had been living amongst humans, who were unaware of what she was. She was transformed in the locker room when she accidentally got her legs wet. Now, she has to drag herself to where the towels are kept and try to dry herself off so that no on will learn her secret.

The other request was for a sensual painting of two of my favourite comic book minxes, Betty and Veronica, to be finished one month from now. You may see progress shots of it popping up around my social media soon.

With the success of Comicfest under my belt, I had hoped to add my new prints an merchandise to the site immediately after, and strike while the iron was hot. I made many connections with interested parties, and had my business card eagerly snatched up.

Unfortunately, I ran into major issues wrestling with outdated code on the website, which lead to a discourse with a very surly designer, and ultimately unhelpful designer. This tragic tale deserves an entry of its own, so stay tuned for that. I say this, hoping that in promising a new blog entry, I’ll feel compelled to make one rather than ignore my blog for the next two years, but the efficacy of this approach remains to be seen.

-Nap

 

 

 

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Grant Cameron Weighs In On The American Presidential Debates

How deep does the government involvement in the UFO phenomenon go? Grant Cameron, the man behind many of the FOIA’s regarding USA politicians and UFOs offers his compelling insights in this interview from The Grimerica Show.

I provided the artwork and had a lot of fun with this, taking the cue from an old desktop wallpaper I had (not my work, see below)

IMG_4260

I painted a backdrop depicting UFOs scanning Washington DC. All the while, Grant Cameron smiles knowingly… listen in to see why!

#153 – Grimerica Talks UFO’s, Presidential Nominee’s & Consciousness with Grant Cameron