For My Boston Strong – Between Sleeps #2 now online

Comics

002-2-boston-strong-between-sleeps-photinakisI’ve posted the second installment of my diary webcomic, Between Sleeps.  This installment is called “For My Boston Strong.”

I’ve been previewing the comic on the blog here for a little bit, as it’s the one about my experiences in the aftermath of both 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Bombings, and on being a resident of both NYC and Boston during and after both events (yes, really).

I’m happy to say that my comic been out for about 24 hours now and I’ve received some lovely feedback on it.  Thank you for reading.

(If you’re more the Tumblr type, I also posted the comic here for your liking/reblogging.)

The Fire Vampire on display at the Beverly Cooperative Bank (Beverly, MA)

Shows

From September 26 through November 7 (2013), my original artwork of The Fire Vampire was on display in the lobby gallery in the Beverly Cooperative Bank in Beverly, MA.  Since the story itself takes place in Salem, which is the next town over, it was great to have my work on display so close by!  I hope visitors to the bank in downtown Beverly enjoyed all the work on display there.

photo 3With my framed pages.

Photinakis-Beverly-Cooperative-BankView of the pages relative to the bank and entrance.

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My husband checking out all the work in the lobby gallery.

Process post – Boston Marathon bombings comic, final panel

Process

bostonstrongTook this photo of the panel I’d just inked as it dried on my studio desk.  Writing a comic about the Boston Marathon bombings has been tough as I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  I don’t want to be seen as trying to exploit the event or hitching my wagon to it for some perverted reason.  I live and work a street away from Boylston street and the bombing happened in my neighborhood — so I’ve been trying to draw a short story that was authentic to my experience living and being around that terrible event without resorting to cliches (the finish line, the sneakers). Living in the area after the bombing was a world away from what the news was portraying, honestly. I think I finally found the image I was looking for to conclude this little story, I dug it up from my memory last night and put it together.

 


After the fact, here’s my childhood friend Santa Bear admiring his, I mean my, hard work drying on the drafting table.

3 Lessons I Learned From A Year of Drawing For a Business Client

Process

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I’ve been lucky for the past year to be on the production team for a weekly corporate video series. My role has been to provide the artwork (and some video production work) for this video feature, which has thousands of devoted viewers in its niche field. It’s been a fascinating experience delivering this kind of work for a business, and as an artist I’ve learned a lot of important lessons along the way.

The project I work on is basically a version of something with a few names: graphic recording, visual note-taking or graphic facilitation. You’ve seen it at conferences — an artist sets up with an easel to the side of a speaker and visually digests the speakers’ words and concepts into a visual representation that strengthens and reinforces the speakers’ points.

In my case, I do this while a speaker rehearses what they’re going to say in front of a camera and draw visual notes on a whiteboard. After I’m done my drawing, the speaker then goes on camera next to the whiteboard and uses my notes as a prompt to guide them along.

The drawings and lettering is all freehand and is not meant to look polished. The goal was for it to look casual and a bit spontaneous, not slick. There are a number of dimensional restrictions on the space I can use, as well as the colors and the level of detail I can employ, all for a variety of boring technical camera and green-screen-related reasons. But within these restrictions I’ve been able to have a lot of fun, see for yourself: Here is the landing page for all the videos of this project – it gets updated weekly.

So, here’s what I’ve learned.

1) You’re not a special snowflake
We generally have only an hour to set up, draw, and film. The most important thing is that the speaker in front of the camera has plenty of time to go through their takes, so you don’t want to spend 45 minutes of the hour with the speaker waiting around for me to finish my drawing. I need to get in there, listen to them run through their lines, draw their concepts, and then hang back as fast as I can so they can get the camera rolling. Most of our speakers are very busy and schedules are tight, so that one hour we have with them can’t be wasted.

When I first started on this project drawing on these whiteboards, my designs were kind of fanciful and honestly, they took a little while. There’s one I remember doing that was going to feature the then-CEO, and as you can imagine he was EXTREMELY busy. But we wanted to do something impressive for a CEO.  And I think I spent almost two hours sweating over all the details on this… whiteboard.

2012-10-09_17-39-28_817I’ll be damned if I didn’t code half the apps that appeared on those mobile device screens, practically. And yes, after all that effort, this whiteboard did end up looking pretty sweet while the CEO presented against it.  But there was no way to replicate this effort weekly – it would be way too impractical for me to spend two hours creating each week’s whiteboard. It’s not a smart use of time or resources for a video that’s barely 5 minutes long on average, especially since these whiteboards often need to be wiped clean and used by other staff for business reasons! Plus, I’ve noticed we get diminishing returns after spending 15 minutes drawing a whiteboard.  These are whiteboard sketches, let’s be real.

Now that I’ve been working on this project for a while, we have a nice process down and I’m usually able to get these whiteboards done in 10 minutes or less. Granted, they are not painstakingly detailed like they used to be, but it was important for me to strike a balance between delivering what’s needed for the client’s project and doing what’s practical for the ongoing success and efficient production of the project. Me going all diva over a whiteboard sketch would just hold up the whole thing.  Plus in more than a few cases, in order to keep the weekly schedule, we have to film and publish the video on the same day within just a few hours.  (As I also do the video editing, so I can’t get too tied up!)

tl;dr: It’s important to do a good job, and you have to suit the client’s needs and suit the business, but you don’t want to get precious about what you’re doing.

2) Don’t get too attached

There’ve been more than a few times that I’ve been lucky to have inspiration hit me at just the right moment, or perhaps the topic I was illustrating particularly resonated with me.  Those are times I really wish I wasn’t just sketching on a whiteboard.  A group of us will stand back and admire the work, often the speaker will go “whoa, that’s really cool” before coming in to present against the whiteboard… but after the camera turns off, the eraser comes out and all that cool work gets wiped away.

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For example, this was a Whiteboard Wednesday I was particularly proud of, and it just so happens that the speaker presenting from it is very well-respected in this field, so it was a double honor to work on this. Plus, I got to draw hackers in mohawks and who the heck wouldn’t like drawing that?

I’ve often thought of these whiteboards as my own version of the Buddhist sand mandalas. As soon as I’m done creating one, I get just a few minutes to enjoy what I’ve done before it gets destroyed.  On the days where I’m not happy with what I did, it’s a relief. But when I’m particularly proud of that work, taking an eraser to it is humbling.

Getting detached from the permanency of my work, simple as it is, has allowed me to try a lot of new things in how I try to visually communicate.  I can give a concept a shot, and if it doesn’t work, oh well, next week we start again clean.  Working on a whiteboard has helped me let go of old habits and techniques in other media too, so it’s had a great cascading effect throughout my art.

tl;dr: You’re going to have to erase that work of yours pretty soon, in some cases, the moment the camera gets shut off. And then you’ll have to draw another thing. And another and another. Allow yourself to let go and you’ll find yourself growing in new ways.

3) While you can advise your client, but their opinion will always trumps yours

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Even more humbling than the regular erasing of my work is when I sketch out an idea and the speaker him/herself goes, nope, that’s not working for me. The topics I have to illustrate are generally very specialized and often technical, and I have to rely on the expertise of the speaker to determine if my visual notes are actually relevant.  It helps that I have some knowledge of this field, and that’s why I’m able to continuously translate these specialized topics into visual notes, but no matter how much I like something I sketch out, if the speaker/client doesn’t like it, or if it’s not working for them, their expertise and opinion matters more.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t politely explain why I may have drawn something in one way, or perhaps elaborate on what I’m trying to accomplish with a visual metaphor. But hey, I can get things wrong.  Most of the time though, I draw these ideas with the speaker right there with me, and we have a great back-and-forth about what kind of visual representation would work.  Sometimes the speaker even has their own ideas on what I could draw, and while it’s not always what we end up going with, more ideas are always better than just one or two.

To add to that, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve yet to work with a speaker who was insistent on doing something his or her own way—I know it’s fortunate indeed to work in a creative capacity and be given the space to do my own thing.

It’s hard sometimes though to hear unsolicited suggestions on what to draw or not draw. It requires me to put my ego away and say, you know what? I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and I should always be receptive to hearing what others have to say.  I’ve never regretted pushing my ego aside for this.

tl;dr: We each bring our own expertise to a project. As an artist working for a client, it’s our job to listen and to communicate important information, but we also must respect the expertise and requirements of the client.  Ego can’t get in the way.

Extra Super Bonus Life Lesson: You’re not always going to knock it out of the park
There were some topics I’ve had to illustrate that, frankly, were really hard for me to figure out.  There are a few videos of Whiteboard Wednesday where the speaker is basically presenting to a whiteboard of text and callout boxes.  I was just stumped on what to draw.

There are other times where I have my own excuses—if only I’d had more time to think out the concepts, if only I hadn’t felt so rushed, if only I hadn’t been feeling exhausted/sick/whatever—and I know in those cases, the work is not my best.

Just like with the sand mandala mentality, and that everything we do is temporary, you just have to do the best you can at that time and move on.

And you have to be able to make peace with the fact that, sometimes, you are going to accidentally draw Kip from Napoleon Dynamite, and it will be hilarious.

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Ouch, Napoleon, you’re bruisin’ my neck meat!

I have been so, SO incredibly lucky to be able to work on this Whiteboard Wednesday project for over a year now and going. It’s allowed me to expose my work in new ways and I’ve had people from the most unexpected places come up to me and ask me about my work. It’s also opened up a number of new opportunities to me that I never would have been able to dream of before, so as humble as a whiteboard sketch might be, it has allowed for so much more.

Best fictional characters EVER! (Seriously)

Illustration

As you might know, I’m going to be away for the next few weeks as I’m getting married in a few days (yay!) and heading out on my honeymoon immediately after (double yay!) I don’t want to leave several weeks of radio silence from me though, especially as I have something cool to share with you.

If you’re not already following my Facebook page — and you can do so by clicking riiiiight here — I encourage you to head on over right now and keep your eyes peeled. I’ve scheduled a bunch of posts while I’m out to share with you a neat little illustration project I did specifically for my wedding reception: I made custom table cards (the little signs on tables that indicate what number it is, so folks know where they should sit).

Each table card features one of my or my fiance’s favorite fictional characters.

The table cards are double-sided, one side has my character, the other features my fiance’s. 15 unique black and white drawings in all with final dimensions of about 3 by 5 inches.

We figured it would give people something to talk about, especially when each table is themed — one table card features Favorite Star Trek Captains, another is Favorite Omnipotent Interdimensional Beings… I had a lot of fun drawing these, needless to say.

You’ll get to see each of the final table numbers on my Facebook page spread out over the next few weeks. For a taste of what’s to come, I posted a few previews on my Instagram:

The posts will start in exactly a week – this coming Sunday (so my guests get a chance to see these images first!) Every other day afterward I’ll share a new table card, so head on over to my FB page and you won’t miss a thing!

[edited later to add] And here they all are — click to see all the images!

Opening Studio Night

Shows

Last night was the culmination of many months of work — the opening night of the art studio I’ve become a part of [name and location removed]. There are more than a dozen of us artists who work here, and we’ve put a lot of labor into rehabbing a previously unoccupied building and making it into an artist haven. The great thing for me, as a comic artist, is that there’s a creative variety of students and artists in the area. It’s not all painters and fine artists. Just a few months ago I was at an excellent comic arts gallery showing just down the street, with some top-notch talent represented there. So even folks like me can find their own groove here.

The great part about having the open studio was meeting all the wonderful people in our community. For several hours, people came in to our space, into my studio as well, just to see what I’ve been up to, ask me about my work and my processes. These awesome folks are our neighbors and it was truly wonderful to meet them and speak with them. I met a lot of other artists in neighboring projects, from writers to painters to actors and producers. There was so much energy in the air. I had a really great evening!

My sincerest THANK YOU to everyone who came by and said hello. It was an absolute delight to meet all our wonderful neighbors and friends in the community. Please come by any time!

And now, to the photos!

In my studio!
Here I am at my desk. I know, the chair is sad – I had splurged for an amazing drafting stool, but it’s a foot too high. So I’ll use it for painting, but in the meantime, I’m using an old lawn chair at my desk. (Nobody ever said this was a glamorous life.)  And yes, it’s pretty dark in there, but it was also about 9pm at night.  We took this during a lull in the crowds, as most of the time I had at least 5 people in my studio milling around and speaking with me, so there wasn’t much time to snap a pic.

 

Fire Vampire
Here’s me with the framed pages of The Fire Vampire, which you’ll be able to read in In A Single Bound #3 in about two weeks! These pages are going to be up in the studio halls for a few more weeks, and afterward will be on display at the Beverly Cooperative Bank from September 26 to November 7.

It was lovely to see people standing outside my studio door reading the comic on the wall and hearing their chuckles. It’s the best kind of feedback.

All gone!
This picture is a bit hilarious to me, as 1) this entire display is hobbled-together things that I had in my studio that don’t really mean anything, but I thought it looked neat. And 2) I had that easel on the right CHOCK FULL of free minicomics (Silent Fluency, which I made a few months ago). They just flew away, I couldn’t keep up! I wish I had printed more, come to think of it. But it was a nice problem to have. I hope people enjoy giving them a read. They’re quick reads as they are miniminimini, but it was handy using those in lieu of business cards. Just wish I had more. Oh well, I’ll print some more for the next open studio!

People also liked flipping through my more recent sketchbook. That picture you see right there is of Captain Sisko from Star Trek DS9 🙂

photo 4
This amazing guy is who really made a lot of this happen. We’re getting married about two weeks from today! He’s my fiance Eric, and he has done such an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work that I can’t even begin to list it all. It’s thanks to the many, many, MANY hours of hard work that he and many of the artists’ supportive partners have put in to this place that we were able to make our open studios the great success that they were.

To all the partners of artists who work behind the scenes, know that we thank you and we love you and we could not do what we do without your support.  I am so grateful.

On the left side of the photo, you can see a little how-to/process table that I set up, with step-by-step notes on how I made the minicomic that folks were reading. People really liked this glimpse into how things get made, and many people had great questions into the process. I love this kind of thing! Explaining process is a lot of fun for me, for some reason (maybe it’s my project manager background?)

Panorama shot of my studio
The panorama shot! My studio, as you can see, is half-empty right now — that entire right side is going to be full of large pieces and paintings in the coming months. Right now though I am still working on paper, and that’s basically the left side of the world…

Also I quite badly need some shelving. But that will come in time!

If we met last night at the open studio night, thank you so much for coming by. I hope you had a nice time!

PODCAST: Ep. 2 – Prioritizing And Passion Projects

Podcast

Episode 2 is LIVE! This week we focus on what it means to make our creative careers a true priority in life, and how that impacts our jobs and personal lives. Makin’ it work! We’re also checking in on the projects we talked about last episode – where oh where are we now? How did things go? Plenty of failures and successes to report.

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We’ve changed our name from “Truth and Light” to “That Artist And Actress That Do A Podcast” – descriptive, we know! So keep an eye out there.

Also: WE ARE ON ITUNES! You can subscribe to us here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/maria-photinakis/id677027545

Links mentioned in this week’s podcast:

If you like our podcast, we’d LOVE to hear from you! Drop us a comment or tweet at us — @photinakis for me, @kimitru for Kimbo!

Comic Short – The Fire Vampire – process update

Process

Work for my submission for In A Single Bound #3 continues apace! I am nearly done this project after working pretty steadily on it for the last 2 weeks. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at what I’ve been doing. It’s like seeing my comics in their undies, but sharing is caring after all!

Still roughing things out a bit here, but I'd done a lot of thumbnailing work previously and knew generally were things were going to go.

Still roughing things out a bit here, but I’d done a lot of thumbnailing work previously and knew generally were things were going to go.

 

Page two, last panel. This one gave me a lot of problems, I scrapped it a few times and started over. This is the latest version, I am much, much happier with it!

Page two, last panel. This one gave me a lot of problems, I scrapped it a few times and started over. This is the latest version, I am much, much happier with it!

 

A big establishing shot, super close-up here.

A big establishing shot, super close-up here.

 

This is the first page with most of the contour lines done. Placed down masking fluid where appropriate so I could apply some ink washes...

This is the first page with most of the contour lines done. Placed down masking fluid where appropriate so I could apply some ink washes…

 

The page after the ink washes have dried. Still needs a lot of refining and finessing, but the character of the page is starting to come through.

The page after the ink washes have dried. Still needs a lot of refining and finessing, but the character of the page is starting to come through.

 

This is on page two, my favorite panel so far. The dialog is pretty much a direct quote from the 4 year old I interviewed for this story. I was giggling the whole time when making this panel, it's completely adorable.

This is on page two, my favorite panel so far. The dialog is pretty much a direct quote from the super, super cute 4 year old girl I interviewed for this comic. I was giggling the whole time when making this panel, it’s completely adorable.

 

I’ve had a great time working on this short comic and can’t wait to share the finished product with you! – Maria

PODCAST: Episode 1 – Inaugural Podcast of Firstness

Podcast

Guess what? I’M PODCASTING! Specifically, I am podcasting with my good friend and very talented actress Kimberly Truon. We’re calling our podcast Truth and Light, and it’s about us working towards achieving our artistic dreams.

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We’re using this podcast to document our efforts, cheer each other on and hold each other accountable. Here’s our very first episode – please have a listen and let us know what you think! (We’re working on this being published through iTunes, fingers crossed that will be very soon.)

Still roughing things out a bit here, but I'd done a lot of thumbnailing work previously and knew generally were things were going to go.

Update on short submission for In A Single Bound #3

Comics

Work continues for the short I’m submitting for Ninth Art PressIn A Single Bound #3. Yesterday I completed some rough pencils for the first page – I need to define some of the figures a bit more and REfine the details on the complicated establishing shot (a crowd shot, no less! Why did I do this to myself?). But there were some REALLY fun panels on this page – I don’t want to give too much away though, as I really want you to see it when it’s in print (hopefully :))

Here’s a poorly-photographed preview:
fire-vampire-pencils

Tonight I’ll do the pencils for the second page, probably alternate a bit between that and refining the pencils I already did. I need to figure out a good balance between going nuts on the pencils and making sure I don’t leave areas of mystery for me to try to navigate while inking (because that’s never good).

As noted in previous blog entries, thumbnailing was SUPER crucial on this. I spent a good amount of time scripting and then playing around with layouts in the thumbnail phase. I can’t even imagine how I would have approached this comic if I hadn’t done that — I’d probably be curled up in a ball of anxiety in some dark corner, weeping quietly…