Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bzzzz, a puppet show

I've always been intrigued by puppets. I suspect Mr. Rogers Neighborhood is at the center of this, but I do also recall some paperbag puppets in my elementary school years.

At the December meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont we got to meet fantastic puppeteer Sarah Frechette and her partner Jason as Sarah performed a mini-show of The Snowflake Man, based on Vermonter Snowflake Bentley, who photographed the first snow crystal in 1885. Sarah also gave us access to her giant pop-up book which is also the stage for The Snowflake Man!

Afterward, Sarah and Jason helped us each make our own pop-up stage and stick-puppet with just paper and a kabob stick.

Last week I made a puppet show with my creation and wanted to share it with you.

Ultimately, I'd like to make a much neater stage and puppet.  But for now, I'm happy with my summer show.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

CCS One-Week Work Out: Day 1

Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) is my favorite school on the planet.

Summer 2014 I attended the CCS Create Comics week-long class, and LOVED it.  So, I was all for it when they announced a "One-Week Workout" this Autumn.

What is the One-Week Workout?  It's pretty much a cartoon exercise program with exercises emailed to you daily for one week.

I signed up immediately when I found out about it and due to intense chronic illness issues am going at my own pace... which means, I did the first exercise in November... and will be tackling the rest in January and February.

This comic is from Day 1:  A Four Panel Comic

To make it easy to figure out what to draw, I decided to make my four panel comic about my "To-Do List" for that day... post-election tasks and other junk I needed to take care of.

Usually I draw on paper first, create a final ink outline, then scan and edit.  But I wanted to try starting from scratch on the computer to practice using my Wacom drawing tablet.

I feel pretty good about this comic, and drawing digitally.  And I'm excited to get to the next exercises when I'm feeling better!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gluten Free Eggpant Mini-Pizzas

This winter I've been craving eggplant, so decided to try using eggplant in a stove-top mini-pizza - and I love it!

I also appreciate that this recipe is naturally gluten-free, and can easily be vegetarian or vegan.

Personally, I can easily consume half a large eggplant for lunch, but you may not require such a hearty portion - just adjust the recipe to your needs.

Also, most pizza ingredients come in larger quantities than what you'd need for a single serving, so just grab whatever you typically enjoy on your pizza and make as much/little as you need, and then do it again the next day... and the next!

Left to right: Goat cheddar, Tomato,
Pizza sauce (upper right corner),
Eggplant, Mushroom
Necessary Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp Oil (for the pan/skillet) - olive, sunflower, canola
  • 1/2 Large round eggplant per person, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (For lunch I eat 4-6 slices, about 4 inches diameter). Alternatively you can use thinner eggplant for bite size pizzas.
  • 1 can/jar of pizza sauce (store remaining sauce in airtight jar, can be frozen)
  • Toppings (see optional ingredients for ideas)

Optional Ingredients:

You really don't need much - for 6 slices of eggplant I used one 2 inch diameter mushroom sliced, 3 thin slices of tomato quartered, 2 olives sliced, and half a cup of shredded cheese.
  • Cheese: cow/sheep/goat/vegan
  • Meats: pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage
  • Veggies: fresh tomato, sun-dried tomato, olives, onion, green pepper, mushroom, pineapple

  • Large Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large deep pan or long skillet (the longer, the more you can make at one time)
  • Spatula (hamburger flipper)
  • Small spoon (for sauce)

Prepare your ingredients and tools in advance - eggplant gets mushy when overcooked, and you'll need to get your toppings on quickly to allow them time to heat and your cheese to melt (if using).

Start by heating your pan/skillet on medium low.

Add the oil and allow to warm, but don't overheat!

When ready, add slices of eggplant to fill the bottom of the pan/skillet.

Let the first side cook for about 2 minutes.

Flip with spatula - the first side should be a little brown.

Add a small spoonful of pizza sauce to the cooked side of the eggplant, and spread around with the backside of the spoon. It doesn't need to be even - no one will see it!

Add your toppings in the order preferred.

I like to add meat first (if using), then veggies (large to small, flat to bulky, and dry to wet), and cheese last. But of course, you can add things in whatever order you like (for kicks, sometimes I do cheese first!)

Cook for about 2 minutes - hopefully cheese will start to melt a bit. It's okay to cover with a lid, but it's okay if the cheese doesn't melt - it will still be delicious.

You really just want the eggplant to be cooked enough to be tender without becoming mushy or burnt. It may take a bit of practice, but even if it gets a bit mushy, it will be delicious.

Gently slide spatula under a slice of eggplant, taking care as you dislodge it if it has gotten stuck in the center (which it will likely do). Place on plates and serve with fork and knife.

If you're able to keep the eggplant firm, you can actually eat it with your hands like a little pizza - this can be rather messy and you might need a fork to get fallen bits once you've finished.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Goal Update

In my last post I was thinking about goals.  I had completed most of what I set out to accomplish (professionally) for 2016, but was way underachieving in my drawing goal.

Original drawing goal:
  • Thirty minutes of drawing 3 times per week.  
  • Two completed card drawings per month.
  • One completed comic per month.

I revised my drawing goal and it looks more like this:
  • Thirty minutes of drawing 5 times per week, or a total of 2.5 hours per week.

Why wasn't my first set of goals successful when it was so easy?

Truly, I think the biggest barrier this year has been my health:
In May I began treatment for active chronic Lyme disease.  The illness can be pretty debilitating, but so can the treatment.  Imagine being in the throws of something like the flu and your calendar reminds you that you have the goal to draw for X amount of time or complete X numbers of drawings that day.  It might be something you put off until you feel better.  Imagine if you only feel better a few days a month (if you're lucky).  Yeah, not a lot getting done.

The health issue really made a bunch of smaller barriers into larger ones.  For example:
  • Only being able to draw when I felt well enough.
  • The pressure to complete three works per month, but not feeling well enough to even do enough sketching to come up with anything worth taking to the finish line.

So, my goal revision was an attempt to reduce whatever barriers I could.

I decided that what was most important was for me to actually get drawing!  Yes, I want to complete things and have new images for my cards or new comics to share.  But more importantly, I don't want the pressure of having a finished product to get in my way of just practicing.

So, how have I been doing?

Some weeks are lacking, but most weeks I am able to meet my goal or get close.

What has helped?
  • Taking away the pressure of three completed pieces each month has helped tremendously.  Now, I have no completion goals.  So, there is no pressure to create something "worthy" of being out in the world.  This means I can just play and practice.  This allows for spontaneity and taking risks - and that is when I tend to create things that I want to take to the finish line.  In fact, I've even completed an average of one card and one comic page per month since I removed these as a goals.
  • Allowing the drawing time to get combined if necessary.  Perhaps one day I draw for a few hours, but the rest of the week I'm too ill to even touch my pencils, or all my free time is consumed by medical appointments and driving to and fro.  No problem, I still meet my goal.  I'm still practicing.

I'll keep up with this revised drawing goal the rest of 2016, and do my best.  As I draft my goals for 2017 I'll keep in mind what I've learned.  And just as I've reviewed and adjusted my goals when I wasn't meeting them, I'll do so as my health improves (which I have to believe it will).

The take away: Reviewing and revising my goals actually allowed me to become more productive.  And isn't that... the goal?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Time to Revise 2016 Goals

I've freed up about 20 hours of time per week.  I was temping two days a week and had an hour commute each way (with my sweetie), and now I'm done.

Before I can truly recoup this time, I've actually got company visiting throughout most of July.  But once everyone heads to their respective homes and I'm left to myself, then what?

I figure it might be a good time to review my 2016 goals, and create some structure for myself so that I can achieve (or get closer to) some of the overlooked goals I've set.

One in particular that I haven't given proper attention is drawing in general, and another is working on my comics.  Comics have completely fallen by the wayside and I'm very displeased.

In all honesty, I have managed to do a bit... but I had intentionally set some pretty achievable goals:
  1. Create two drawings per month for greeting cards
  2. Complete one comic page per month
I believe I've completed one or two greeting card drawings, and two comic pages possibly 3 depending on when I completed it.

I've been a bit more successful on other goals:
  1. Contact 3 vendors by June 30th about stocking my cards
  2. Create 50 ready-made books this year
  3. Take one class
One of the vendors I contacted actually worked out.  I've created about 40 ready-made books and it's only half way through the year.  And I learned a new book structure in the class I took this spring.

I'd like to add on to some of these during my goal review.  I feel like there is still time to catch another class, if I can find something of interest that I can get to.  And maybe make even *more* books.  And possibly contact even more vendors (this one isn't particularly difficult, but is very scary and rejection is hard on the feelers).

I've also accomplished several personal goals (like painting my kitchen cabinets, attending yoga, and only buying clothes that hone the particular styles I've decided to cultivate).

It's just those goals around drawing that haunt me.

Why?  If you don't practice your craft, you can't get better at it.  And I want to be better at drawing, and better at making comics.  I also want to get better at storytelling and telling the story I need to tell.

One solution that pops out at me with this 20 extra hours per week that will officially be mine in a couple weeks is a daily drawing practice.  I'm going to have to be disciplined, and set a daily time, and just do it Every. Single. Day.  Even if I hate what I draw.  Maybe even if I don't draw anything at all and am just sitting there with pencils/pens and paper and nothing else.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Creative Shifting

Okay, so I didn't make that caterpillar, but I did take the photo.  And really, my point is that I'm trying to be outside more, and actively trying to be inspired and practicing... *gasp*... gratitude... or something like it.  Also, I'm trying to practice "letting go", which I think I've been better at in the past than I am currently.

I'm a bit stuck creatively with book arts, drawings for cards, and comics, but really bulldozing my way through a pile of cover paper as I make Ready Made wedding guest books.

Gold and Cream Wedding Guest Book by Amy L. Burns

It's funny how that works... being blocked in some creative areas but not in others.  In the past I've thought of it as waves of creativity, and maybe it was wave-like.  But maybe a better way to think of it is that my creativity shifts between things.

I'd rather be working on those other things, but binding is the thing that isn't blocked right now, so it's where I go until things shift again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Don't Feed The Birds

Though this isn't my first ever comic, it's my first "hey, I'm showing everyone out there what I did" comic.  That makes it special.  Enjoy.

Bird Feed Comic by Amy L. Burns