All posts by kevinmlearn

P178-179- Maniac

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As I said before, numbers make things important.

 

I counted this week and I have seven weeks of work to do before I finish drawing chapter Three.  I can’t believe it. (alright I can- I’ve been barely sleeping).  If I can finish prior to November, which will be a stretch with a vacation weekend in Rhode Island, two weddings in the Midwest to attend, and Packer season about to begin, then I might have enough time to revise the beginning twenty pages and start the fourth chapter process before 2014.

 

Phew!

 

This weekend my wife’s friend from med school is visiting, so hopefully I can disappear for a while and draw like a maniac.

 

 

P 174-175- Pillow Mob

My good friend from art school, Blair, visited NYC this past week.  He’s easily one of the most creative people I’ve ever met.  Besides the innovative work he did in college, he’s done graphic design/web work for a good size list of companies over the years and he started his own successful retail internet site (Check it out: Pillowmob.com) with a second one on the way.

 

The last time he was in New York we met at Angel’s Share, a speak-easy south of Union Square hidden in a Japanese restaurant.  He showed me his new handshake that involved slapping his hand back and forth between the other person’s legs at about knee level.  It was not a crowd-pleaser he informed me.  And in practice I have come to the same conclusion.

 

This time we met up at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and we did what New Yorkers typically do in the park, gawk at gypsies, take pictures of models, and jam our pockets full of free samples of cologne.  I then got him a bit more drunk than he wanted to be and sent him skipping back to his wife- who probably isn’t too happy with me now.

 

 

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P 172-173: I wish I knew what I know now…

My doppelgänger recently sent me a copy of his novel through his Kindle account.   He’s been writing it in his spare time while teaching in South Korea.  He wants me to send him a copy of what I have finished of Sacco.  But I’m reluctant to do so.  Not because I don’t want his opinion.  It’s because the drawings from the first chapter are shit compared to my latest completed pages.   Plus I’d like to pretend my storytelling skills have gotten better.

 

I mentioned this hesitation to him.  He said it’s not uncommon- look at the Harry Potter books.  J. K. Rowling’s craft in the first book was rougher and more jagged compared to the final installments.

 

He has a point.  If the “ten-thousand-hour rule” is held to be true, then yes, any author should see improvement.  Except novels are typed words.  Their worth is contingent on if you know the language it’s printed in.  A graphic novel’s worth is a bit more transparent.

 

Below are the first 2 pages I created in January 2009 overlapped by the 2 pages I completed inking this week (P172-173).  I haven’t finished adding all the grey tones to the pages from this week.  As for the 2009 pages, at that time I had just begun inking with a brush and constructing entire pages with several panels.  Prior to this I normally did one-off illustrations with ink pens for freelance assignments.  The 2009 pages aren’t in my final draft of Sacco.  I’ve already redrawn them.

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However I’m not the only illustrator/cartoonist whose style changes as their work progresses.  Look at Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work from the first and sixth Scott Pilgrim book (below).  There is a vast difference.  Tighter lines, better form, more apparent panel edges and all his characters don’t look alike by the end of the story.

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Epiphany

Do you like novels with talking sheep and cities that have a population consisting entirely of cats?

 

Well I do.

 

Or course I’m talking about, Haruki Murakami, Japan’s most famous novelist.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent article where a journalist  describes why Haruki  began writing:

 

And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.

 

It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realized he could write a novel.

 

That’s the foundation for his literary career- a man hitting a double.  It doesn’t sound like a momentous action that would stir someone to write a novel.   It’s absurd.

 

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And yet in 2006, on a Friday night after getting home from my day job, I saw a man hit a double too.

 

My girlfriend (now wife) popped in with a friend.  We were having a drink before that evening’s plans of going to some sort of themed party- if I had to guess, which I’m not, because it’s not important, because we never went.    The man hitting a double happened first and it erased all of that night’s activities with it.

 

That moment was when I walked to the kitchen to get a beer.

 

I began feeling an odd excitability in my head.  My mind  wasn’t analyzing or assessing.  It wasn’t categorizing  or filing.  It was acting remarkably different.  And in an instant, before I even got to the kitchen,  it was 5:30 on a Saturday morning and I was sprawled out on a gurney in the Masonic Medical Center on Chicago’s north side.  Apparently, I passed out.

 

This bothered me for weeks.

 

Why? Why did I pass out?

 

My girlfriend and her friend told me they heard a sound like something heavy falling hard to the ground.  When I walked back in the room I started talking in loops and when questioned about certain topics, such as a recent vacation to Costa Rica, I couldn’t recall ever being there.  They brought me to the hospital where I kept this up until the next moment I remember, around 5:30, when I woke up.

 

Like I said it bothered me for weeks.  But what compounded the situation was a week later I saw a person faint on the brown line on the way to my day job.  I’d never seen a person faint before and it freaked me out.  Let alone the fact that she woke up 10 seconds later, stood up and pretended nothing happened.  People offered her their seats insisting she should sit down, but she refused, as if this was a common occurrence and everyone should get about their day.

 

A few weeks later I was crossing the street as a man on a bike was going through the same intersection.  He was on the other side the street from me.  And right as he was crossed the middle of the pavement- he fainted!  While riding his bike! It’s okay- he was going quite slow.  He didn’t shoot off his bike or pummel a pedestrian.  And you couldn’t really call it a busy intersection for car traffic either.    He just sort of crumpled on the cross-bar and tipped over.  By the time I got to him he was already on his feet shaking his hands at me to indicate “it’s cool, it’s cool- no worries.”  He jumped backed on his bike and pedaled away.

 

In twenty-seven years of life I never saw a person faint or faint myself.  And yet in a matter of weeks three incidences occurred.  This is the only truly weird thing that has happened to me.

 

And then there was an epiphany.

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P 168-171- a speeding bullet

It’s been a whirlwind of a two weeks.

 

My doppelgänger left and I threw up two more pages.  Then my wife and I flew back home to see my doppelgänger with the rest of the family.  So off the cuff, I decided to delay the inking stage and jump straight to drawing the subsequent two pages as I wouldn’t be able to begin them as expected.

 

We got back to NYC on Tuesday night and cranked out the inks for one page.  But now I need to prepare to draw two more on this Saturday.  That would leave me five penciled pages, one inked, and zero scanned.  Being an illustrator, graphic novelist, doodler (or what ever you want to call it) doesn’t normally contain this much math.  But if I’ve learned anything from my day job, numbers make everything look more important.   Luckily the next few weeks aren’t as action-packed so I should be able to get ninety-nine percent of this work done ( and statistics are the lynch pin of sounding serious).

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Pg 176-177: My Doppelganger

Besides having a double life- I also have a doppelgänger.

 

He’s actually my twin and he lives in South Korea.  No, he’s not evil but he chooses to live very close to it (if you consider North Korea evil, or NoKo as my brother calls it).   This week he visited with his wife and daughter, Da Won.

 

To celebrate, New York City decided to climb to one hundred degrees for four days in a row… and it’s killing me.  My Midwest blood wasn’t made to stand this temp.  I grew up where winter could start in October, go until April, and most people lost feeling in their ears by the age of ten.  I have friends who in January will declare it “T-shirt day” and strictly wear a t-shirt the entire day whether it’s 5 above or 5 below.  Superman might gain his power from the burning rays of our sun but his fortress of Solitude is in the arctic. So there’s that.

 

Anyways my niece, Da Won, couldn’t stand the heat either.  The only time she cried was when she was not in the shade.  Somehow though I managed to don my tights and get 2 more pages completed while taking them to Staten Island, Korea town, Central Park, and several museums.

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It Was Meant To Be

“It was meant to be.”

 

I overheard a co-worker say this.  She was talking about how she landed a job at the company where I pretend to be Clark Kent.  She was unemployed looking for work. Things were really about to hit the fan when out of the blue she receives a phone call from an old associate of hers that inquired if she needed work.  That’s was how everything fell into place for her.

 

It’s a well-played story line.  I’ve overheard it many times over. Like:

 

“Everything happens for a reason.”

 

“It was destiny.”

 

“It was all part of God’s plan.”

 

“It was kismet.”

 

“I guess it was meant to be.”

 

But was it?  I want to believe, that most people, at some point in their lives, come to a crossroads where they realize that most- if not all things do not happen for a reason.  That randomness is the true culprit.  If this woman’s old associate never called, what would have taken place next?  And would whatever happened next still be for a reason?  Can our brains not recognize the real narrative?

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Try this-

Flip a coin one hundred times and mark down a “1” for heads and a “0” for tails.

 

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Looking at the results above, you can see string of 1’s and 0’s and even possible patterns of complex alternations with longer string of a solid number in a row.  When most people are asked to generate a random placement of zeroes and ones it tends to look like:

0

1

0

1

0

1

0

1

0

1

 

Ridiculously uniform because we understand randomness to be inconsequential and perhaps constantly changing- but randomness, as shown above, can act very static and unchanged.

 

This is a snapshot of  Sacco.  What’s ironic is in the process of making this graphic novel I relied heavily on random influences.  This generated the impression of things falling into place at the most opportune times.  If an element of the story wasn’t crystallizing, I’d ruminate over it and then go about my day.  A short while later a headline would magically appear in the papers or a fortuitous line would be spoken on TV that would ignite the sparks to fill that gap.

 

It was my interpretation of randomness that filled that gap.  Just as it was this woman’s interpretation of her life that made it fall so perfectly in sync.

 

 

Or maybe it was meant to be.

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Busted Steam Pipe

I live a double life.

 

By day I am a mild-mannered financial operations analyst, by night a guy fiercely drawing school shootings and girls with rabbit ears speaking gibberish.

 

It’s a struggle to keep both separate.  In the comics they always make it seem like the superhero is pulling off this tightrope act to keep their true identity concealed but it’s a bunch of crap.  Clark Kent wears his superman outfit under his clothes.  Which means he brings his other life to the office! Come on- He’s asking for everyone to find out!

 

“Oops! Sorry Clark.  I spilled coffee all over your finely pressed shirt. Take it off and I’ll get it cleaned for you.”

 

Bam- secret identity ruined (seriously, has this storyline ever been played out).

 

I at least have the common sense to leave my tights at home.  And that’s where my dilemma stems from.  You see, I draw the pages on the weekend and ink them on the weekdays.   That leaves me very little time.  It doesn’t help that my hand tightens up when I ink too long.  If I don’t take breaks every hour it can get painful.  Kryptonite painful.  And the ultimate goal is to start 2 new pages every Saturday.  So if I don’t get all the inking done during the week I either need to wake up earlier (4:30 am) to get an extra 2 hours in before going to the day job or else it waits until next week.    

 

And here in lies why leaving my tights at home causes me so much problems.  I work for a company that has offices all over Manhattan.  Yet my department runs specifically out of the southern most building on the island- 1 New York Plaza.  It’s right next to the Staten Island Ferry.  

Image   Getting to work is never the issue.  But when I leave EVERYONE is spilling coffee on me.  For instance:     Image It was reported as a busted steam pipe.  Never heard of it before.  But OK.  So the fire department supposedly came to check it out and they stayed in order to calm people down if they misunderstood what was going on.  I misunderstood what was going on, believing it to be serious because, well, the fire department was there.  The Bowling Green 4 and 5 train stop (the train stop I use to get home) is right across the street from where the steam is emitting from.   I’m about a block away from work when I took this picture and about 73+ blocks to my tights (drawing board).  It’s never easy to get to my tights.     What makes this steam incident worse is that a few of my coworkers actually worked in the World Trade Center.  Thankfully they were on a floor relatively close to the ground.  Here in 1 New York Plaza we were located on one of those “floors relatively close to the ground” yet recently were moved to the top floors of this 40 story building.  They were not happy about this and strange incidents (like the above) in the Financial District only add to the intensity.

 

For a short time my tights got a little closer when Hurricane Sandy hit last October and partially flooded the basement and 1st level of 1 New York Plaza.  We were moved to a building a block away from Times Square and an easy 15 minute ride back home.  The last week of December 2012 we returned home to 1 NYP.  (Thank god too- I would have been stuck at work until 8pm on 12/31/12 and then I would have had to deal with a new year’s mob right outside.)     Image

P165-166, July 4th 2013

It’s a good thing that I draw.  At times I feel I have an addictive personality and if drawing didn’t cut it and I moved on to something more hardcore, like heroin, well I would have OD’ed ages ago.

 

I just went on a four week bender of crapping out pages (8 pages to be specific) and at the end of last week I fell to the ground burnt out with a pencil sticking out of my arm (figuratively, obviously). My attempt to take it easy over the weekend failed.  Especially since my manager at my day job started his 2 week vacation this past Monday.  Luckily the markets are closed today.  But instead of resting here I am in front of the drawing board completing the below page that I started 2 weeks ago.  I drew, I inked,  I scanned and splashed a little coloring around.  Once done I sat back and smiled.

 

Now on to the next 2 pages….

july 4th

P17, Year 2009 (in the beginning)

In the year 2000 I was in my senior year of art school just south of downtown Milwaukee in a place they call the Third Ward.  I was a fine-arts drawing major, I listened to Radiohead, and I wanted to create illustrations for magazines such as Rolling Stone once I graduated.  I wasn’t breaking any molds here. I was naive like any other twenty-one year old about to step into the real world.  But something one of my drawing teachers said stuck with me.  He said that certain projects we would attempt in the future would take more than one hour to complete,  more than one drawing to solve, and that we might spend a large part of our life attempting to successfully reach this artistic endeavor.

 

To me this seemed far-fetched.  At the time I lived drawing to drawing and day to day.  But by 2006 I was growing increasingly bored by making one image after the other that didn’t hold some sort of connecting idea.  This was when I began writing Sacco.

 

The last 7 years this story has been with me and I worry that my memories won’t place Sacco and the journey I’ve taken with it appropriately.

 

This blog is meant to be a reminder.

 

Of mistakes along the way.

 

Of the breakthroughs I might forget.

 

One of the biggest motivators for me to start this blog is the image below.  At the time, my wife and I were living in an apartment building in Chicago with two of our closest friends living right down the hall.  They recently got married and were leaving the city in search of jobs in/around Milwaukee.  On the day I drew this both of them were not at home  (most likely in Milwaukee, since they were in the process of moving) and we had a spare key to their apartment.  I sat on one of the stools surrounding the island in their kitchen and worked with one light on in the darkness as the sun came up.  This page is the last memory of my friends living in Chicago.  A few months later, we were disappeared too- to New York.

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