The TIE FIGHTER

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If I ever get a chance to pitch a Star Wars story to Marvel or Disney or Lucasfilm it’s going to go something like this:


The Empire has fallen.

Lawlessness spreads across the galaxy as the New Republic struggles to maintain order.

On a neglected planet, a former Scout Trooper has taken it upon himself to free his home world from a crime syndicate that threatens to control the entire planet.

He is: The TIE FIGHTER.

Thank You Mom

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She passed away on March 22 and I’ve been thinking about her life a lot. I don’t normally post personal stuff on here, but I just wanted to talk about my mom for a bit.

The reason I decided to pursue art is largely because of her support, encouragement, and example. If you like anything I’ve created, it’s because of her.

The daughter of a cowboy and an elementary school nurse, her father was a gifted woodworker who always had a good clean joke to tell. Her mother was a skilled artist who knew how to get things done. These were traits instilled into my mom’s personality which filtered down to me.

She was an educator who found many ways to help encourage, support, and inspire students from all walks of life. She was also an incredible seamstress. Happy to share her love and talent with anyone, she sewed countless dresses and blankets for friends, family and those in need.

She always made sure there was plenty of paper in the house. Though we didn’t have very much money, one time she bought me a full set of Prisma Color pencils. Every Christmas and birthday she made sure I got some kind of art book or comic collection to inspire me.

She taught me to be kind, to help others, to share my knowledge, and most importantly how not to wet the bed (something my wife is incredibly grateful for).

Thank you mom. Everything good in my life is because of something you did for me, or something you taught me.

Thank you for reading this. I just wanted you to know a little bit about her.

- Jake

I Love Star Wars

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I love Star Wars. Love it. Even the bad stuff.

My unapologetic love and fandom for Star Wars is probably like someone who is a life long Dodgers fan.

As a kid they get taken to the games, they collected baseball cards, they owned a jersey, and are brought up knowing all the players. As adults, regardless of how the Dodgers are doing they still watch the games, they still root for the team, they still want them to win the World Series. 

They also know when the team stinks, but that doesn’t diminish their love for the team...in fact, it might make them defend them and love them even more.

That’s me and Star Wars. Seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater when it came out as a six-year-old made a deep deep impression on me.

It would probably be like taking a kid who was into sports to a professional game and having them high five one of he players as he entered the arena.

I came home and replaced my Batman costume with a black Luke costume (with one black glove), and my RoTJ Luke action figure became a daily carry. A life long Star Wars fan was born.

I’ve never felt franchise fatigue for Star Wars, and I can plainly see that so much of it is designed to make money, but at the heart of it, just like in Major League Baseball, there’s people who are making it not just to collect a check, but for the love of the game.

That love still shines through in a well acted character, a really thoughtful piece of concept art, and an exhilaratingly creative scene. 

Which is why I love this brilliant, flawed, beautiful, stupid, but most of all FUN galaxy far, far away.

Tabling at ECCC: What would you do?

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For the last 10 years I’ve ran a table at at least one comic con show a year. The most I did in one year was around 2016 when I did 6 or 7 shows. However, I’ve been seeing a steady decline in the amount of money I’ve been making at these shows and I think it’s time for me to push pause on cons for the foreseeable future.

Here’s why I do comic cons:

  • I love meeting the people who support my work

  • I love making friends and strengthening old friendships in the comic industry

  • I like getting out of my studio and seeing new places ( also like the long road trips to clear my head)

  • I always come away from the shows wanting to do better and be better in my career. I get ideas from other professionals and fans about how to improve my work and business

  • Its a way to supplement my income

EMERALD CITY COMIC CON NUMBERS

By far the best show I do every year is Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. All my other shows gross roughly $4,000 to $6,000, but Seattle is always a good $2,000 more than that. I’m going to talk about Emerald City because I’ve decided that if I do any show from here on out it’ll be that one since it’s my biggest money maker.

In 2015, the first year I did the show, I grossed $9,053. My expenses for a show are between $1000 and $2000 depending on the amount of tables I get and what my hotel situation is. I walked away from ECCC 2015 with about $7,500 in my pocket. Not bad!

BUT, Here’s how it’s broken down since 2015:

2015: $9,053

2016: $8,745

2017: Took a year off

2018: $6,283

2019: $5,743

That’s a pretty steep decline. This year my best seller was by far my new SkyHeart book. I sold over 60 copies of it! However, this last year I sold less prints (for less money), less books overall, and I only did 2 commissions instead of my usual 9 or 10.

REASONS FOR THE DECLINE

Here’s some of the reasons I think there’s been a decline:

1) I don’t sell BIG Marvel Fan Art prints any more. They were 13 x 19 and sold for $30 a pop. (I don’t sell them any more for a few reasons which I’ll get into on another post) Also, the prints I did sell at this show are half the size of what I used to sell and go for $20. I made them for a smaller show and I’m just clearing them out. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

2) It’s been a few years since I’ve done any comic work for Marvel, and I didn’t bring any original comic art with me.

3) After FOUR Drawings books I think people might have all the Drawings books they need. Sales of those have definitely slowed down. (Maybe I should do Drawings 5?)

4) In 2018 and 2019 I moved my location to the Sky Bridge. Emerald City is set up with two main halls connected by a narrow glass atrium that looks over one of the main streets in downtown Seattle. It’s called the Sky Bridge and it has a lot of traffic, but it’s not direct traffic. It’s mostly people just passing through to get to the other side of the con. The first two years I was in the Artist Alley and I think the people who cruise Artist Alley are more likely to be there deliberately and are looking for specific things to spend money on.

I can fix most of these problems to maybe squeeze out a few more dollars from a show, but is it worth it?

But here’s some other theories of mine that I don’t think are fixable:

1) People are just suffering from con-fatigue and not spending as much money.

2) Cons growing in the amount of artists that are showing and the attendees spending the same amount of money, but distributing it to more people. (it looked like ECCC Artist Alley was BIGGER than it’s ever been this year)

3) I’ve tapped my full audience at comic cons. It’s entirely possible that everyone who is a fan of Jake Parker in the Seattle area already has everything they want from me. There were lots of people who came by just to say hi, which is super nice, but they didn’t buy anything.

REASONS TO QUIT

There’s a handful of reasons I do not like doing cons. They are an incredible time and energy suck. There’s the days leading up to the con that you’re getting everything ready. There’s the travel to and from. There’s the con itself which can be brutally noisy and socially draining. And then there’s picking up the pieces of your life when you get home. I usually have to spend a day doing all the house chores and errands I didn’t do while I was gone.

When I look at the reasons I like going to cons I wonder if actually tabling at a con is the best way to address those needs. It seems like the amount of time, effort, and creative energy that goes into setting up a table for a weekend at a convention could be better spent on deeper pursuits. A monthly google hang out could be a better way to meet fans in a more personal way. There could be a better way to maintain friendships in the industry via phone calls, texts, and skype hangouts. I could make a trip to another city where 100% of my time is spent exploring and experience everything that city has to offer and not have to spend 10 hours a day at that city’s convention. I could also spend money on specifically focused professional development courses/seminars and probably get more ideas and inspiration than what I would get from a convention. There a lot of better ways to make a few thousand dollars in a week where I still get to sleep in my own bed.

In short, maybe the money I make at a con isn’t worth it.

QUESTIONS

My questions I’m trying to answer right now:

Should I fix what I can and go one more time and see if the numbers rally?

Should I stop for a year?

Should I bid ECCC adieu?

What would you do?

BELOW: A sample of what I had at my table this year:



Posing is Half the Battle

I was talking with Aaron the other day about drawing and how it gets faster (and in some ways easier) the older you get.

One of the reasons for that is that when you’re younger and learning to master your craft you not only have to worry about the concept, the design, the structure, and also the rendering, but on top of that you have to pose your character in an appealing way. Just figuring out an appropriate pose can steal half of your drawing time on a particular character.

What happens after drawing professionally 20 hours a week for 10-20 years (especially if you do comics) is that you kind of have drawn almost every possible pose there is for a character. There’s only so many ways to show a character running, jumping, standing, punching, sitting, throwing, etc.

A more seasoned artist has drawn characters in all of these poses and from many different angles too. This means that when she sits down to draw a character the pose is almost done with muscle memory. The majority of her creative energy can then be put into the design of the character and the rendering.

The Running Quadruped

About 4 or 5 years ago I figured out a great pose for a running quadruped. It took me some time to really nail this pose based on photos of running horses. But once I had drawn it and committed it to memory it’s allowed me to lean on it for a variety of designs. You can see in the below examples where I straight up used the same pose for different characters:

By taking a large animal that’s typically portrayed as lumbering along on all fours and putting just one of those limbs in contact with the ground makes the animal look like it’s moving at a speed almost too fast for it to carry itself at.

By taking a large animal that’s typically portrayed as lumbering along on all fours and putting just one of those limbs in contact with the ground makes the animal look like it’s moving at a speed almost too fast for it to carry itself at.

Almost the exact same pose as above but with a few tweaks to make it a pinch more dynamic.

Almost the exact same pose as above but with a few tweaks to make it a pinch more dynamic.

And then some where I modified it a bit to suit the design of the character and to mix things up:

Here I just put the right front leg making contact with the ground instead of the left front.

Here I just put the right front leg making contact with the ground instead of the left front.

In this illustration I used the exact same pose as the sauropods up top, but I lifted the little paw off the ground to give this wiener dog racer a little more speed.

In this illustration I used the exact same pose as the sauropods up top, but I lifted the little paw off the ground to give this wiener dog racer a little more speed.

Lastly you can see here that once you have the pose down in your head it’s very easy to modify as needed to emphasize some aesthetic attributes you’ve given your design. In this one the longer legs wouldn’t fold up as nicely under the main part of the body, but with my understanding of the original pose I could splay the legs out easily and get a new pose the suited the design, and didn’t cost me too much extra creative energy.

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Want to get good at posing? Here’s a posing regiment you could try:

1) Take poses from comics, concept art books, life drawing, photos, and animation. I have a Pinterest page devoted just to poses I like.

2) Have a pose sketchbook and just fill it with copies and studies of the poses in your reference library. Don’t add any details like armor or hair. Just draw the basic shapes of the pose.

3) Now on your own, draw these poses you like from different points of view.

After you’ve done 50 of them you should have a solid pose library that you can refer to often. Bonus side effect: by drawing these poses you create an imprint of them in you memory. A memory that can be called up the next time you need to draw a character in a pose like that.

SkyHeart Update

A picture of all the books going out from last September.

A picture of all the books going out from last September.

I’ve been thinking about SkyHeart a lot lately. I’m currently writing out new chapters to be drawn and formulating a plan as to how I’ll be distributing it.

First, though, I just wanted to touch base and thank everyone who believes in this project and has bought a book. Watching SkyHeart get made, printed, and shipped out has been one of the most stressful, but overall rewarding projects of my career. I'm really proud of SkyHeart and happy to have finished book I.

Post-Mortem Assessment

I wanted to talk a little bit about what I would do over, if I had a chance to do this again. The biggest mistake I made in this endeavor was launching a Kickstarter for a book that wasn't drawn yet. This caused a few problems. It meant that my delivery date was over a year away from the launch of the Kickstarter. A lot can happen in a year, and some major life events (health probs) interrupted production on this book which delayed the delivery for over a year

This put me under considerable stress as I didn't want to let down my backers, yet needed the time to make a finished product I was proud of. When it came down to whether the book should suffer or the Kickstarter timeline, I chose the latter. 

The vast majority of my backers have been so supportive of this entire project and that's what's kept me going through the end. A handful of them expressed concern over the delays, and I appreciated that too. They were the wolf at my door motivating me to work harder and faster. 

Looking back at this project I think of my path to SkyHeart as a catch-22. I should've finished the book completely before launching the Kickstarter. However, I strongly believe that the only reason we have this book now is because I launched a Kickstarter for a book that wasn't drawn yet. This leads me to...

The Future of SkyHeart

Over the next few years I'll be delivering this story in chapter installments on skyheartcomic.com. Every time I have enough chapters to make another volume, I'll launch a Kickstarter for that and get a book printed. 

I've put a lot of thought into this, and I think this is the best way for SkyHeart to be produced. This means that SkyHeart fans will find out what happens to Wake and friends much sooner, and it means a much shorter delivery schedule between Kickstarter launch and actual book shipment.

Let me know what you think!

Thanks,

Jake

Book Review: Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

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First off, my rating system: I rate a comic in 4 different categories on a scale of 1-5 ⭐s

The categories are:

Story - Is the plot engaging? How well does the plot and characters support the theme? How well does the writer use point of view to tell the story? How has the writer used symbolism? Is the conflict and resolution satisfying? Was the story paced well? How does the writer use the narrative to set the mood? And is the mood consistent with the them?

Characters - How are the characters developed? Do the characters have clear motivations? Do the characters behave in a believable way? Are the main characters relatable, and if not, is it intentional? Do the characters have a rewarding arch? Is the dialogue character appropriate?

Art - Does the design/style of the art support the story? Is the panel layout easy to follow? Are the compositions used to emphasize key moments? Is the color in harmony with the line art? Does the artist use color to support story elements? Are the poses, action moments, and quiet moments done in an appealing way?

World - How believable is the world? Does the genre support or play against the story/characters? Are the locations sufficiently built out? Have the creators infused the world with culture? How are they at using geography to build out the world?

Rating system:

⭐: Abysmal

⭐⭐: Underwhelming

⭐⭐⭐: Good

⭐⭐⭐⭐: Excellent

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Perfection

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

  • Paperback: 272 pages

  • Publisher: First Second (April 1, 2008)

  • Language: English

This book came recommended by a friend and was described to me as an artist’s way to process and understand what his friend was going through after finding out his son was diagnosed with cancer. I came away from this book loving the art, but not being too impressed with the story.

The book is about a family consisting of a father, mother, and a son who live out in a quaint cottage in the countryside away from civilization. Very early in the book three shadowed beings show up on the hillside and it’s implied that they are here to take away the boy. Acts 1 and 2 play off that ominous beginning with the parents reacting each in their own way.

But the 3rd act takes a left turn. It was unexpected and kind of ruined the book for me. Spoilers ahead: In act two a slave trader is introduced. He is the worst kind of human who sells women to other evil men. In act three the three shadows go after an evil man, and I thought it was this slave trader, but it wasn’t. It seemed odd that they would set up that character, even go so far as to show his slave escaping and killing people, and then never return to that storyline again.

In act two we meet a character who steals the heart of the father. When I realized in act three it was this man that the Shadows were after, I thought it made ok sense...but then I didn't like that the 3 shadows are susceptible to earthly influences like alcohol. Kind of felt like they should be more “grim reaper,” and less “girls just wanna have fun.”

The different reactions from the parents was satisfying. That's what sucked me into the book. I felt most engaged when the father was trying to get them on the ship and the dilemma he found himself in. Like, if this book is symbolic of your child getting cancer you might not know how to navigate working with hospitals and physicians, and insurance companies and what not and that could get really frustrating and make you desperate.

Visually, this book just knocked it out of the park. Pedrosa's use of ink is next level. There was just so much atmosphere in his panels. And the decision to make most of the pages 4-5 panels meant you could savor some of the art a little more. Also, I thought the font was perfect. The world felt rich and lived in. Dangerous, and unforgiving too. Which made the father's choice to move his family out to the forest all the more understandable.

I liked the book and would recommend it. It’s a great example of using no traditional looking comic art to tell a very serious tale.

My overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Story: ⭐⭐⭐

Characters: ⭐⭐

Art: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

World: ⭐⭐⭐

You can purchase the book here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WNXC1c

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You can purchase the book here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WNXC1c

Q and A: How do you address the daunting nature of doing a picture book?

Thumbnail sketches for “ The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair. ”

Thumbnail sketches for “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair.

I got an email the other day from a Mr. Nathan N. who says:

I do arts and crafts as a hobby. I just wrote a children's story that I would really like to illustrate and self publish. It is something I've been wanting to do for a while.

How do you address the daunting nature of doing all those spreads? Especially if you're totally amateur?

Good question. I thought I’d share my response here since it might be helpful to other people in Nathan’s same position.

Here’s what you do:

1) On a couple of sheets of paper make 18 rectangles with lines through the middle. Make them small enough that you can fit 8 per page. These all represent the pages of your book. 

Underneath each page write “endpapers,” “title page,” “copyright page,” “page 01,” “02,” “03,” etc. If you’re not sure what pages to include, look at a published children’s book to pattern this after.

2) On each of these spreads just draw the stick figure version of what you think should be illustrated on each page. This is the hardest part of doing a children’s book. So don’t worry if you get frustrated or overwhelmed by this. Don’t forget to leave space for where your words are going to go.

3) Now that you have a loose idea of all the illustrations you need to do, begin roughing out more detailed sketches of each spread. These should be done at the size you’re going to actually draw it. Add the words to these pages as well. 

4) You’ve got an entire children’s book sketched out! Pat yourself on the back. Now start chipping away at each illustration one drawing at a time. Start with the fun one first, then do the hardest one second, then do an easy one next, and keep going in that order until the book is finished.

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It also helps to make a checklist with a box for each page. Cross off each page as you finish. Seeing the progress this way helps you realize how far you’ve come and have a realistic idea of what you still have to do. Plus it’s so satisfying to cross things off as DONE.

DINO-FORCE

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As long as we're adding more massively funded bureaucratic agencies can we please have a dinosaur branch of the military?

Finally saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom with my wife and A) I loved it way more than it's predecessor, and B) couldn't stop think about where this franchise is going next.

When you've invested half a trillion dollars bringing dinosaurs back from extinction and then weaponizing them every unit counts. So when D-103 lost her leg from an IED they replaced it with a fully functional cyber limb. Good as new in a few days and back in the field in under a week.

This image: All digital. Drawn in @adobe Photoshop, on a @wacom Cintiq when I should've been working on something else.

- Jake

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Abe Washington Eagle

Last week it was Independence Day here in the United States. It's probably my favorite holiday. I usually spend way to much money on fireworks and put on a show for the neighborhood kids. Which would be good enough by itself to celebrate the holiday, but the city I've been living in for the past 7 years really knows how to do the 4th of July right. There's the Freedom Run first thing in the morning with thousands of participants, a hot air balloon launch, my neighborhood has a pancake breakfast in the church parking lot, there's a giant parade, and then a huge fireworks show at the stadium with an F-22 flyover.

Oh, and my neighbor has a replica revolutionary war canon that he fires off at 6 AM to wake everyone up.

In that spirit, for the last 5 years I've done a ridiculously over-the-top illustration staring Abe Washington Eagle, a character I made up that embodies the patriotic soul of my country. Here's the drawings from the last 5 years:

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Hope your 4th was explosive!

-Jake