Monday, December 7, 2009

Congratulations Craig Thompson!

It's the last week of classes, so I'm pushing to get all my work done for finals. As such, this will be a quick post. Today I thought I'd share a bit of happy news indirectly related to my project.

I discussed earlier in my blog that my favorite graphic novel is Blankets by Craig Thompson. Paste Magazine just released its list of the 20 Best Graphic Novels of the Decade, and Blankets got #1! Apparently, I am not the only one in love with it.

Here's the link, if you want to read the rest of the list.

I have inked and colored pages, but that entry will come soon. For now, I've got to get working. See you next time!

Monday, November 30, 2009

To Editors and Friends

Hey, everyone. Sorry for the gap in posting. I try to do it every week, but the Thanksgiving holiday sort of got in the way this time around. But here's an update, as best as I can give:

Two weeks ago, Bill and I tacked up every page of my finished and photocopied pencilled draft and went through it, spread by spread, to figure out where everything fit best and how to make things flow better, as well as other miscellaneous edits along the way. My spreads took up about the entire wall of the classroom, and Bill and I took about two hours going through them. I apologize-- I was so caught up in the process that I forgot to take pictures or video during it. Now those photocopies are circulating amongst people I've picked to edit my piece so outside sources can check for errors. (It's all well and good to edit yourself, but a fresh pair of eyes or two is always a good thing.) One of these days soon, when I get all my edited pages back and in order, I'll put them back up and take some pictures.

It occurs to me now that I'm giving this to people I care about to edit-- people who were there with me, or there in spirit. Yet, on this blog, I have shown very few (if any) pictures of these people who shared this experience with me. As sappy as this sounds, no experience is solitary, and trips are more than the places you see. So, in the spirit of friendship, here are some great snapshots of my wonderful friends.

From left to right: Janet, Haley, Allie, Julia, and Simi at the Queen's Larder all toasting to President Obama after his inauguration speech, which we watched in SU London's student lounge.

From top to bottom: funny-faced Haley, Janet, and Allie being silly at Absolut Icebar. It was our roommate Kate's birthday, and we surprised her by bringing her there.

Me and Allie at one of our favorite clubs in London, The Social.

We had a snow day early on in the semester, so Allie and I spent the day making delicious pancake creations, including these guys.

Me, Chris (my boyfriend), and our mutual friend Jackie on the Tube during Chris's four-day visit to London for Spring Break. (I met Jackie while studying abroad-- Chris told me he had a friend also studying abroad and that he thought we'd hit it off, and he was right.)

My birthday celebration at a tiki bar!

I miss London every day, but luckily most of these people I am still close with, and we have these memories to share. London wouldn't have been the same without them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sketchbook Edits

Last night I had another weekly meeting with Bill, my advisor on the project, and he gave me the plan for next week: as I will at that point have all my first draft spreads pencilled, I am going to photocopy them all, and in our next meeting we are going to tack all the photocopies up on the wall for some serious editing. I'll make sure to bring my camera and post the pictures from that session on the blog.

In the spirit of editing, I thought I'd share some pages from my journals that have been pretty well worked over. At first, when I started my journaling, I was very careful to think about exactly what I wanted to say before writing it down so as to preserve the pristine paper in my cute little Moleskines. (Many artists I talk to say that expensive or very pretty sketchbooks are intimidating-- they feel they have to create something immediately beautiful inside. I definitely struggle with that too.) But I very quickly got over that, and learned that rearranging sentences, crossing out entire paragraphs, finding a better word, and changing my mind in the middle of a thought was part of the beauty and spontaneity of what I was trying to do. So here are some lovely, scribbly notebook pages, just for fun.

This is a piece entitled "Disasters"-- which, through all the edits, made it to the final cut of my graphic novel, actually. If you look closely, above the title, there is a little aside in which I say, "Before I begin: Bill said yes! I am making a graphic novel for my Capstone!"

This piece, also included in my final graphic novel (but seriously cut down) I wrote during my trip to Istanbul. This is probably one of the best examples of on-the-spot self-editing I could find in all my books.

Even as I was leaving England, I was still editing. This piece I wrote in London Heathrow airport and on the plane ride back to the U.S. (Up top you can see a sketch I did in the Heathrow waiting area of a mother and daughter sleeping on a row of seats, probably in between flights.)

So I hope you enjoyed these little edits. Get ready for some big ones next week. See you then!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hello and welcome to November! I've actually only got a handful of spreads left to do in pencil, then it's on to editing, coloring, inking, all that good stuff. But for now, I thought I'd share two of my most important influences in the world of independent comics.

I first discovered Scott McCloud freshman year of college when one of my professors gave us an excerpt from one of his books, Understanding Comics, as a part of a homework assignment. I loved his style-- the way he used comics to explain comics. That same year for the holidays, I got Making Comics (the third in his explanatory comics series) and read it cover to cover, and have read it many, many times since then. Aside from one class I took here at Syracuse called Narrative Drawing, I have not had any real formal sequential art training. Most of my understanding about comics as a storytelling medium comes from Scott McCloud. Also, fun fact: my freshman year, he came to speak to some students for a symposium. I couldn't go because I had a class at that time, but that same night, Art Spiegelman (who is certainly an inspiration as well) came to speak on campus, and Scott McCloud stayed to see him speak. So while I didn't actually get to meet Scott, I was in the same audience with him. Just a funny little circumstance.

While Scott McCloud serves more as a technical and formal inspiration, my most significant creative inspiration comes from Craig Thompson. I can't remember what I was doing before I read his graphic novel Blankets, but it really couldn't have been that important. Blankets is hands down one of the greatest books I've read of any genre. It really opened my mind up to the possibility that comics and graphic novels were more than just a medium for kids and superheroes. Craig Thompson uses the medium of comics to tell painfully and beautifully personal stories. His visual language and his visual problem-solving skills are amazing, and showcased wonderfully in Blankets. (He's got some other great graphic novels, too-- his first, Goodbye Chunky Rice, made me cry, and I've been trying to get a copy of his travelogue Carnet de Voyage for some time now, but it always is out of stock wherever I look for it. Also, he's got his longest graphic novel to date, Habibi, coming out in about a year or so. I can't wait!) Sometimes I worry that I am getting too personal in my own work, that I am too much in my own head and that no one else will be able to relate to what I'm putting down on paper. Re-reading my favorite passages from Blankets reminds me that even the most personal, intimate things can resonate with others. And if I can make something half as good as Craig Thompson can, I will consider it a great success.

And, because I think it would be a shame to post on this blog about my inspirations and not post something from my time abroad, here is a photograph of trees lining the edge of Dublin Port, decorated in shining blue lights. These felt so magical to me.

Please check out the links of the artists I mentioned, and please tune in next time for some more graphic novel goodness.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wanderlust Revisited

A few posts back, I outlined the process of how I edited and arranged a particular spread entitled Wanderlust. Well, since that post, it has gone through even more edits, so I wanted to share those with you too.

This is what it looked like at the end of my last post. But I still felt like there was something missing. I hadn't yet added text, and the funky frames weren't conducive to normal ways of handling text, so I felt I had to get a little more creative.

So those two shots are of what I ended up doing. They're a tad blurry, but you get the idea: I made the frames themselves into letters that spell out the title of the spread, and let the rest of the text wander freely as the frames themselves do.

I got the idea to make the frames into text from a few different sources:

1) Bill gave me the name of Marian Bantjes, a Canadian designer who does a lot of really amazing things with typography. You cans see her work at:

2) A phenomenal DC Comics illustrator named Alex Ross, whose anthology book includes this as an introduction to the work he did for the Justice League:

3) Funnily enough, I believe I was also a bit inspired by the type for the London 2012 Olympics logo, because despite the controversy surrounding it, the type is chunky enough to allow for other images to be placed inside it. Whether or not I think the logo is any good is a different story (I don't personally think it is), but it is from London, just like my stories, and I think I was channeling that kind of type when making this spread.

That's all for now. More spreads to come later in the week. Happy Halloween everybody!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before and After


And after...
(Yes, that is a mostly-eaten bag of Tostitos sitting next to my watercolors and Micron pens.)

I need to go clean up this mess. Goodnight, everyone.

Inking and Painting

Finally, here's a glimpse into the inking and painting process that I shall be embarking on more intensively next semester. Bill wanted me to try it out just to see how it would look. So I did. And here it is! (Well, parts of it... I don't want to give away the full finished version quite yet.)

He told me to pick a spread and experiment with it, so I picked a very early spread of my trip to Bath. The following photos show my process.

My goal with this graphic novel is to rely as little on the computer as possible for any drawing, painting, inking, or lettering. I am on the computer so much normally for my major and just for life in general that hand-rendering everything takes a long time but it is a nice reprieve from staring at a screen.

So, because I'm not scanning anything in or digitally painting, my first step was to use tracing paper and graphite paper to get everything from my pencil draft sketchbook to a surface I can paint on.

Once I got the graphite-copied version onto cold press illustration board, I began to paint. I am using watercolor for this project, because I really enjoy painting with watercolor but also because I think the medium lends itself to landscapes and dreams, both of which are featured heavily throughout my project.

I also like to use watercolor pencil, because they let me do some detail work and get a wider variety of colors (see the set of them in the right of the photo) while still getting that watercolor effect.

After I finished painting with watercolor and watercolor pencil, I added outlines to panels and text boxes using a nib pen and India ink. I like pen and ink because it has that flowy, not-completely-controlled feeling to it.

But for the actual lettering, I used a .03 Micron pen, because I didn't want to risk the nib pen bleeding everywhere and having the text be illegible.

And that's the process. It takes a long time, but I like the results. I'm hesitant to show a fully completed page on here because I don't want to spoil too much, but you can get a sense of what they're looking like from these photos, I think. Hope you enjoyed them! As always, comments are appreciated.

Mosque Drawings

More of Istanbul tonight. I could go on and on about how unbelievable and gorgeous a city it is, but instead I'll just show you a couple examples of why:

Sultanahmet Cami, or the Blue Mosque. Absolutely breathtaking in person.

The Aya Sofya ("Holy Wisdom"), which was built in the 5th century A.D. by the Emperor Justinian, had the largest dome in the Western World until the Duomo was built in Italy hundreds of years later. It is easily the most beautiful and fascinating place I've ever been inside. (The inside will be a separate entry soon.)

My original sketch of the Aya Sofya as seen from the courtyard near the Blue Mosque.

And finally, the two mosques together in a layout for one of my many spreads about my trip to Istanbul.

More to come tomorrow. But for now, bedtime. Hope you enjoyed this, and goodnight!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Meryl Streep in Istanbul

Disclaimer before I get started: No, I did not see Meryl Streep in Istanbul. But the title of this entry will make sense to you by the end.

So I realized I haven't really shown any new process photos of spreads I'm currently working on in a while, so here they are.

While in London, I took a weekend trip to Istanbul with about twenty other students and two guides. There, we had the chance to meet with a high school student who spoke with us about politics, religion, and social equality in Istanbul and in Turkey as a whole. It was incredibly interesting, and the discussion stuck with me, so I decided to include it in my graphic novel.

But as you will see below, my original spreads were:


and extremely text-heavy.

A lot of my editing process is about "capturing the essence" of what I want to explain or illustrate with a particular story. Especially because each story only gets two pages in the entire book (not so in my original draft), the message has to be concise. And in order to make that message concise, there must be a lot of crossing-outing and a lot of moving-arounding of text, frames, and focal points. (See below.)

As Bill, my Capstone advisor, puts it: "There needs to be two of you. The creator and the editor. The creator can put in whatever she wants, include everything for the original draft. But then the editor comes in. And the editor is another part of you that's like-- who's that woman from The Devil Wears Prada?-- Meryl Streep. Your editor has to be like Meryl Streep. Comes in and puts her foot down."

Well, I hope all my scribbles and rewrites make both Bill and Meryl proud.

Monday, October 19, 2009


One of my spreads for this week is based off of the first trip I took to Greenwich (which is surprisingly close to Central London). Greenwich is home to craft and antiques fairs, a pretty cool record store, lots of cute little shops, a beautiful expansive park that used to be a hunting ground for the royal family, and-- of course-- the Prime Meridian.

In the spirit of that spread, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Greenwich trip.

The Prime Meridian and its accompanying observatory are on a hill look out over all of London. It's a fantastic view.

This is the Time Ball (yes I know-- imaginative name) atop the Observatory. The sailors used to wait for the Time Ball to drop before they would set sail so they knew what time they were setting off on their journey. Women would stand on the docks and set their watches by the Time Ball, then tell the time to curious passers-by for money. My friend Janet thinks this is why we have the phrase "she wouldn't give me the time of day."

It's the Prime Meridian of the World. Seriously.

And there I am, making a fool of myself on two hemispheres!

I know I haven't been showing actual spreads that much, but they'll come more when they're in more finalized stages. And soon I'll be starting to experiment with how I'm going to ink and color the pages, so I'll definitely post all of those experiments. But hopefully in lieu of artwork this time around you do enjoy these photographs. See you again soon-- just from one hemisphere, though.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lists and Brainstorms

After getting home from London, I bought a pocket-sized spiral-bound sketchbook to carry around with me and make lists (often spontaneously) of what I wanted to include in my graphic novel.  Some things were literal, like places I'd visited.  Other things were more metaphorical, like emotions I felt or symbolism I placed on common objects.  There were many, many lists... these are just a few.

This list went on for pages, but some of the things on this paget: Dublin, Istanbul, Solsbury, Stonehenge, rain, Underground, communication, loneliness, alcohol, newness.

On this list, I starred "independence"-- this is one of the most important themes to me, both in this graphic novel and in life going forward from my semester in London.

The top of this list contains some of the media I would like to experiment with when it comes time for coloring the spreads.  I want to stay as computer-less as possible for this entire process, so the coloring will be done by hand using probably watercolor and/or watercolor pencils.
"Honesty": the most important thing in this entire project.

More Sketches

Hey everyone!  Hadn't updated in almost a week, so I thought I'd share a few more sketches from my time abroad.  

Our school in London sponsored a day trip to Bath, where we got to see the old hot springs and baths, tour the town, and drink Bath spring water.  (Which, according to a Charles Dickens character, tastes like "warm flat irons."  Dear Charles Dickens, you were right about that one.)  This is a sketch of the Great Roman Bath.  

The fountains in Regents Park are absolutely gorgeous.  I drew this sketch in late April (the date is in the bottom left corner) when all the flowers were in bloom and everything was so picturesque.  My last couple weeks in London, I made it a habit of going to Regents Park and just wandering around.  (Since I have no sense of direction, getting lost isn't that much of a stretch for me, hehe.)

This spread has two sketches: on the left is Allie sitting at the Ivy House, a pub near our school building.  On the right is the famous author Philip Pullman.  Allie, my friend Jackie, and I took a train up to Oxford to see him speak about his trilogy His Dark Materials.  I took copious notes during his talk-- I will probably share some of them here soon, as I took a lot of his words as advice for starting my own writing endeavor, which has turned into this graphic novel.

On the top of this spread is another sketch from our trip to Oxford: Jackie sitting on the lawn of one of the many colleges on the Oxford campus.  On the bottom, sideways, are some quotes from the Philip Pullman lecture we had just attended together.

That's all for now.  Progress on spreads will be coming up in the next couple of days.  But I hope you liked the sketches!  And be sure to check back soon for more graphic novel goodness.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Firoozeh Dumas

Hello and happy October everyone!  I want to take this opportunity for thanking everyone who has commented so far, or made comments to me non-virtually.  I promise I'm not trying to pester people-- I just really appreciate feedback.  Keep the comments coming!  

Now, onto the topic of the day.  It seems that the universe is conspiring for me to meet all these inspiring authors this semester.  First it was Marjane Satrapi (see the entry a couple weeks back).  Today it was Firoozeh Dumas, an Iranian-born, American-raised female author of the books Funny in Farsi (which is now being optioned as a sitcom by ABC) and Laughing Without an Accent.  My English class, called Reading Gender and Sexuality in the Arab World, had a Q&A session with her today, and she was wonderful-- very bright, very personable, and very funny.  Though she is not a comic writer, she is a memoir writer, and had some great things to say about the writing process, inspiration, and writing from your own experiences:

"The thing I love about memoir is that you can write about any memory that is at the forefront of your mind."  (I found this quote especially relevant, because my graphic novel is a kind of memoir that jumps through memories not in chronological order, but based on memory triggers and related themes-- or, to put it another way, whatever is at the forefront of my mind at the time.)

"I try to be sensitive to my subjects." (This is an issue for me because I am telling stories that involve real people in my life, and I have to be cognizant of the fact that they will also become characters and be portrayed to people who don't know them.  It's a funny thing for me to draw my own family and friends.)

"No matter what you do in life, there will be people who criticize you."  (This one's not just relevant to me, but I thought I'd share it because it sure is true.)   

"If any of you ever writes a book, the independent bookstores will be behind you."  (I include this quote because one of the goals I have writing this graphic novel is to eventually attempt to get it published by an independent comics company.  She really spoke highly of independent booksellers and how they stand behind new talent, so this gives me some hope for the future after this process is finished.)

"I bet everyone in here has at least one thing that's happened to them that would make a really great story."  (Let's hope so!  Because that's exactly what I'm attempting to do.)

"If you have an eye for life, there are so many tales you can tell."  (I just thought this one was inspiring.)

And here she is.  Well, a sketch of her at least.  I did this during the Q&A so all I had was my spiral notebook, hence the blue lines in the background of the paper.

So now I'm off to work on my layouts for this week, which I will hopefully post something on later in the week.  Thanks again for the comments, and tune in next time!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Working on spreads this evening has made me nostalgic.  Thought I'd share two of my favorite photographs from my time there.

Taken from Waterloo Bridge on my first day in London, January 13, 2009.

Taken from the same bridge, this time on my last day in London, May 1, 2009.

How things change... seasons, skylines, viewpoints.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Wandering and Rearranging

Hey all.  It's been a week since my last post, and a crazy week at that.  But I thought I'd share how another one of the stories is progressing.

My Honors advisor, Hanna, asked me while I was abroad, "How are you ever going to cure your new wanderlust?"  Which got me thinking, and got me writing.

This is the original spread from my sketchbook, where I let my thoughts literally wander across the pages.  Which led me to...

This.  My original layout, all spread out across the couch in my apartment.  Originally, it was five pages long.  My challenge was to get these five meandering pages down to two, without losing the essence of the piece.

Just a close-up of two of the pages joining.  Along with the swooping text and sidewalk-like panels, I added the element of me escaping the boxes and traveling outside of them-- this time I'm swinging as if the panels are monkey bars.

My solution to the problem of length was to cut the piece down-- literally.  I took a pair of scissors (lent to me kindly by my roommate) and cut up my original layout, and rearranged the panels by hand inside the notebook where I am keeping all of my pencilled spreads.  I copied the new arrangement onto the new pages, and adjusted panel sizes accordingly while I drew.

This is a close-up of what I ended up with.  At this point, I had not added text, but every frame has a line of text to go with it.  Each panel is a snippet of a different memory (from left to right): the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles in France, a bench at sunset in Hyde Park, trees in Green Park, the London Eye reflected in a puddle, and the pyramid structures outside the Louvre in Paris.

I'm sure there will be changes to this layout, as there are to every layout I will do, but for now this is where my wandering has led me.  Keep an eye out for more wanderings to come.