Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Con Report: Interviews in Artist's Alley (Part 1)

Last weekend was Geek Girl Con (whoo!) and I decided that among going to all the panels I could humanly stand, mingling in the main hall, and hovering near Susan Eisenberg just because, I wanted to interview the artists in Artist's Alley downstairs. Why? Because these are the people actually doing what I keep complaining not enough people do: making diverse, compelling, and interesting art/stories.

And trust me, there was some interesting stuff down there. Among the more standard portraits of Benedict Cumberbatch and Adventure Time prints (both of which are great), there was some gorgeous pixel art done in paint, a ton of original webcomics that look fantastic, and an artist selling oil paintings of Futurama's Hypnotoad. I went around and asked all of them a series of vague and openended questions about art, why they do what they do, and what they would like to tell people. It was pretty fun.

Unfortunately, I couldn't physically get to everyone at once, so these are split up according to the day I spoke the them. Here's who I talked to on Saturday:

Kristin Cheney - Sleep of Reason

Kristin Cheney was very honest about this being her first convention, but she seemed to be having a good time. She was there to sell copies of the Sleep of Reason anthology, in which she has published her first short comic. It's a horror anthology that steers away from easy answers and expected mythologies, and it looks pretty sweet. Cheney admitted that she doesn't get to work on comics full time just yet, but she would absolutely love to. She's planning to launch a street magic webcomic in early 2015. The one thing she wants to tell people? "Drink plenty of water."

Margaret Organ-Kean

Margaret Organ-Kean, it turns out, was a freelance artist for Wizards of the Coast in the 1990s, and she created the art on about 25 Magic cards. When she started out, she told me, the company was really small and it felt like a little family. She made original, beautiful cards (seriously, they're gorgeous), and the best part of the gig was getting free color copies of the cards that she could hand out as color reproductions of her work, back when that cost a hell of a lot to get done professionally. A single card could take anywhere from three months to a day to figure out, but the actual art process probably took from 15-20 hours. She stopped working for Magic and decided to go freelance when the company began to embrace a stricter "house style" in the late 90s, early 00s. Her favorite cards that she made? Probably Mana Prism or Hyperion.

Her current projects include gearing up to a book of nursery rhymes and possibly designing an alphabet book. You can check out her art at http://www.organ-kean.com/. She does commissions!

Tara Fernon

Tara Fernon had up these beautiful prints of painting that crossover Adventure Time and the Studio Ghibli films and guh, they were just so gorgeous. She said that while she absolutely loves doing fanart, she wishes more people would be aware of how fine arts, especially the work of Alphonse Mucha, has influenced a lot of contemporary pop art. She likes to use this classical interpretation in her fanart, and I've got to say it looks good. You can view her full portfolio here.

Oh, and the one thing she really wanted people to know about? Well, aside from Alphonse Mucha (she pulled up a bunch of his art on her phone when I admitted I didn't know who he was, and it is awesome), Fernon would like people to be more aware of the declining salmon populations in the Northwest. "We used to see thousands of salmon in the stream, now we see maybe one or two a day."

Keri Grassl and Brian Gardes - Kilted Comics

Grassl and Gardes were primarily at GGC to promote their comic, Paris in the 20th Century, a steampunk-ish adventure comic that follows what happened to Jules Verne's lost novel. Apparently Jules Verne lost a novel, and it only resurfaced and was published in the late 1990s. Their comic is a fictionalized imagining of what happened to that novel, and it uses primarily historical figures and reality based technology to tell a light steampunk adventure story. It's pretty freaking cool.

The project was originally just supposed to be a few short vignettes, but it ballooned to be over fifty pages, and has now spawned a prequel, Ana DuPre and the Eye of the Kraken. The prequel will answer the question that apparently everyone was asking about the first piece. Where did that corgi come from in that one panel that one time? Overall, their mission is to make good media that really is appropriate for all ages, but still fun and cool.

And the one thing they want everyone to know? Grassl was very clear. "Everyone should have their ICE (in case of emergency) contacts readily available on their phones in case something happens." You should be able to press a single button and pull them up without having to unlock the phone, that way people can be with their loved ones quickly should anything happen.

Hana Urban

Hana Urban is an illustrator and writer of autobiographical comics. She works as an illustrator right now, but she really wants to get into doing memoir comics full time. She'd love to put out her own graphic novel or graphic memoir. Right now though? Lots of zines! She tries to use her work to bring awareness of mental health issues and activism. And the thing she wants everyone to know about? "Comics are for everybody. Because they're awesome." True story.

Sara Lee and Lara Kim - PanOptic

Okay, so admittedly I only got to talk to Sara Lee, as her sister, Lara Kim, wasn't at the booth when I stopped by. But Lee was there, and eager to talk about their webcomic: PanOptic. It's an indie dystopian story, centered around a vision of Orwellian surveillance in the future. Which seems exactly up my alley, and I'm pretty excited. The comic will be live in early 2015, but you can check out their site here. Lee said they wanted to work in science fiction because it has the potential to show where we're going as a society. It's a way to deal with issues of diversity and oppression narratives.

The thing she really wants to tell people? "We're here, and we're doing what we love. This is a safe space, and I think that's so important."

Harrison Webb - Fiendish Thingy Art

The first thing I noticed at Webb's booth? The amazing caricature of David Tennant as the 10th Doctor. Turns out, there's a story behind that. Webb works as a caricature artist at Disneyland, and created that caricature as a joke during a slow stretch one night. He put it up on his display for kicks, but quickly found that apparently there are a lot of Doctor Who fans at Disneyland. People came by and requested other characters, and pretty soon Webb found himself doing a lot of fanart. He says it's been validating to find other fans through his work, and, yes, he still sells copies of the original 10th Doctor print.

Webb also does commissions and creature design, and says he'd love to keep doing art as long as he can. When I asked what he wanted to tell people, he laughed and said, "That I'm a man, dammit!" Going on he added that he wishes people were more aware of gender diversity, and pointed out that being misgendered sucks. Which, yeah. It really does. Also? "Stop the shipping wars! Think of the children!"

Chibi Yeti

This was another booth where I didn't get a chance to talk to the actual artist - she'd stepped away to go get food or something necessary like that - but I did talk to her business partner, Wakey. Their business model? Get their cute and weird designs out into the world! Chibi Yeti is exactly what it sounds like, a company that sells t-shirts and patches and other materials with pictures of an adorable little yeti on them. Also tentacles. Their new line of shirts is covered with a gorgeous tentacle design, and all of their work is hand screen-printed. They also sell patches with gorgeous embroidery and hand stitchwork. Their goal? Just to "make people smile."


That's the first part of Saturday's interviews! More to come. I mean, we haven't even gotten to Sunday yet...

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