This is the digital confluence of a lot of things I do: comics, writing, coding, theory, and arts education. Make yourself comfortable and dig in wherever you like. It’s nice to have you here.
Here’s some insight in the process of creating one of these digital collage comics:
These were the pieces that I chopped up for this. I looked at a lot of other things but these wanted to coalesce together in my mind. I allow this stage of the process to be open. I save the images to my desktop and then drag them into the canvas once I’ve laid in a grid.
I use the Icon Archive’s classic pixel art icons as a source of inspiration. It’s like opening up a magazine to a random page and cutting out what I find. Their archive structure makes this useful. Sometimes I find a flower I like and then pop into the collection that flower comes from to see what other icon’s the creator of that icon might have made.
I usually start these comics solely with a desire to make something. Sometimes I have a direction in mind. I usually find myself using that as a place to start but veer away from that idea or sentiment fairly quickly. I tend to follow my intuition of what makes the pieces come together. Here’s a look at some of the early cut and pasting and rearranging looked like.
The first step was the laying out of an underlying grid. I don’t always do this, but it was something I wanted to work on in this case. I’ve been really interested in underlying grids determining higher order structure relationships. Tight, but invisible. (I look forward to making 15 panel grid pages in the future. That grid is a brutally beautiful thing).
As you can see, in this piece I was especially committed to the overall structure, particularly the inlaid 9 panel grids within panels 2 and 3. I thought it to be an interesting formal constraint and I found that there was a fertile tension in the layout.
To achieve the coloring technique that I’ve used as the unifying element for this series, I use Photoshop’s Save For Web feature. It’s usually used to compress files with fine control of format and compression artifacts. In my usual way, I looked at this tool that was built with a certain use case: optimal compression with controlled lossy-ness, and thought tried to think of it in another way. What would it yield if the goal was to intentionally change the image significantly?
I started following this train of thought a couple years ago. I’ve found that it creates a really neat back and forth in the process, akin to screen printing, where the output based on the input started to effect the decisions I would make in the input. I’ve sought to become in tune, intuitively, with the variables involved in the color decision and dithering algorithm.
Some high level take-aways: Gradients dither really nicely, for example. Garish colors in an original image, assuming they have solid contrast, yield coherent new images. Organic mark making techniques yield surprising textures. Pixel art’s sharp edges yield a satisfying textural contrast to the complext dithering that happens, etc.
In short, this process creates richly textured digital images that I think of as screen printed collages. It’s a good space to step into when I want to communicate something but don’t know exactly what.
Trial and error, constraint and composition, chaos and accident.
Death is around the corner. How we come to terms with, that is the business of our living.
Don’t work so hard. You’ll likely regret it.
History is not the past, history is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal. -James Baldwin
Nothing fancy here. Just a straighforward public service announcement.
Whiteness is a dangerous, violent concept. It isn’t about skin color. It’s not even about race. I mean, it is, and it isn’t. Fundamentally it’s the symbol of those appearances and lineages used to implement a willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. Whiteness mutates as the needs of the shape of the hegemony of whiteness shifts. It’s a deft chameleon. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire. It is necessary to justify the sins needed to satisfy our ancestors’ greed and our comfort.
This is the history of whiteness. Reckon with it and see yourself as you truly are.
Then, build a better world.
For context, I’m white and latinx. I’m a first generation immigrant to the U.S.A. from Venezuela and of Spanish descent. This is my history.
- 🎥 I Am Not Your Negro - 2016 documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House.
- 📺 Toni Morrison on Charlie Rose (1993)
- 📑The Social Construction ofWhiteness: Racism by Intent,Racism by Consequence - Teresa J. Guess
- 📺 The Event: How Racist Are You? with Jane Elliott (Channel 4)
This is a zine I made when Simon Reinhardt was visiting Pittsburgh in April of 2017 for PIX, the Pittsburgh Independent Comics Expo. It was a confusing time, so naturally, this is a confusing zine.
It was made from a collection of drawings that I was making with a chunky, Sharpie Flip Chart marker while out and about on index cards. This was done at the peak of working for Frank Santoro so his predilection for Matisse-like mark-making and notecard technique was rubbing off on me. It was also the beginning of my burn-out from working with Frank.
I had just started working at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, was running the then 3-times monthly comics salons, was still doing a radio-show on WRCT-Pittsburgh, and the daily news blogging on Comics Workbook was going full-steam. I was coordinating workshops at PIX that year with Frank and Sally Ingraham and it was just too much. I was really hungry for experience and opportunities for growth at the time so I was afraid of saying no to things, but it broke my back.
In the face of the daily exhaustion, I found the Flip Chart Marker drawings immensely helpful. The lines went down with immediate impact. In the little time that I had to draw on the bus or waiting between jobs I could draw lines that felt like someone else was drawing them. (I don’t particularly recommend these markers other than for ephemeral drawing - These markers aren’t made for archival use so the drawings fade quickly. And if you spill water on them, the pigments composing the colors spread out real wild-like.)
This zine comes from trying to make a special, strange object with comics-energy from the pieces of my ongoing notecard drawings. Simon and I stayed up late to make these zines and had them ready for the Expo. He was doodling some snakes and I asked him if I could photocopy them and include them in the zine. It creates a silly, bizarre tension between the drawings of people around town. It also takes me back to a moment of late night creative friendship with Simon. I love it.
It was exciting and fun to have this strange little zine to people. Looking back on it, I’d say this was the first zine that I’m truly proud of. It speaks to a certain aesthetic mystery that I’ve tried to pursue over the past 3 years.
Looking for Work
I’m currently looking for work as a Software Developer.
I’m at the Junior level right now and have I’ve been looking for work since May. It’s been a challenge, as you can imagine. I’m smart and hardworking, but so are a lot of people. Companies have only recently started to rehire as state ordinances allow businesses to open up more so there’s a lot of demand for work and not a lot of supply of work.
I’m firing off applications, resumes and cover letters every other day to recruiters and hiring managers. From what I’ve heard, it’s simply a numbers game. For every job there’s 1 applicant who gets the job and 99 applicants who don’t. Therefore, the average experience is going to be one of rejection. I’m working on building up an emotional shell to help me persevere, but these rejections can still sting.
The sting is especially felt when I get my hopes up and open myself up emotionally to the possibility of working with a certain group of people. A recent experience with a company that I became enamored with especially hurt as I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster.
Cut back to a couple weeks ago when I friend encouraged me to apply to a local literacy focused start-up. I looked into the company and was amazed. They were the real deal. A small team of people who had been working for the past 4 years to build an incredibly useful web service for libraries, parents and schools. I got to it and wrote the best cover letter I could write. They seemed to appreciate holistic approaches to problem solving and systems thinking so I made sure to focus on those interests in the cover letter.
It seemed they liked me and were interested in me as the interview process went fast after I emailed them my application. I talked with the CTO for over and hour and the next day with the CEO. In preparation for these talks I did my homework and researched the company a lot. What I learned was great and I could really imagine working for them. The conversations went really well, compared to previous interviews. There was a real human connection and the discussions ranged across many topics. I loved it. Above all what I loved in talking with the CTO is that they were looking for people looking to grow in a healthy environment. A dream come true in this industry, for me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job.
It’s a bummer, a real bummer but it is what it is. It’s especially difficult in this case because the kind of work that this company does would be such a dream to be involved with. It’s ethically minded, helpful, and using computational power to genuinely streamline existing infrastructures. Unlike so many tech startups that are dedicated to willfully “disrupting”, this organization exists to stabilize and strengthen existing public library and school infrastructures. A vital project for social institutions to exist under capitalism.
They called me back to tell me the news. I was a little thrown off as I’d never gotten a rejection on the phone, rather usually just a cold email. They were very kind and transparent. The purpose of the call was to discuss the process of the recent hires and that unfortunately they had only planned on hiring one Junior level developer this round, who they had already hired.
Given that this seemed unusual way of delivering this news, I took it to mean that there was genuine interest in me. I made sure to express that I would love to join them in the future and that I’d love to know what skills to hone in the interim while I work other jobs. They were helpful and pointed me in the direction of React and Ruby on Rails, their tech stack.
If anything, I wanted them to know my door was open, should future opportunities arise. Though understandably painful, I feel that it went well. I keep a glimmer of hope glowing for working with them in the future. Seeing as how their business has picked up this year in part due to new library and parent demands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I have hope that they’ll be growing more and that there may be room for me. But that is just a hope and I can’t get my hopes up too high. I need to find work now.
The lesson here for me is that for my own emotional well-being I need to emotionally compartmentalize a little more in this process. This is difficult given that I like to be genuine with people, but it should help in the long run. I need to be consistently writing solid cover letters, firing off applications and working on honing my programming chops by taking classes and building my own projects. Something will come up. I’m sure of it.
Here’s what I’m working on to make it happen.
I’m currently completing the University of Helsinki’s massive open online course (MOOC) on object-oriented programming in Java. So far so good. Java is very similar to C# so I’m not having many issues there. It’s primarily an issue of getting accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of Java’s verbose-ness. All good. I’m doing this because in the Pittsburgh job market there is a huge, steady demand for folks who work in Java.
Once I complete the University of Helsinki’s course I’m looking to go through The Odin Project’s Ruby on Rails path. I have several projects that I’d like to build using Rails for Comics Workbook. Among those is a peer-to-peer zine selling web application and an archive.org style zine and mini-comic archive that has a lush interface for reading and searching and is open to public submission.
Soon enough, I’d like to work through Al Sweigart’s Automate the Boring Stuff to become fluent in Python in a way that allows me write automation scripts as needed. Down the line I’d like to work on my Statistics/Calculus/Linear Algebra skills to build some machine learning applications. I imagine these will be strange little art projects that relate to comics and visual communication.
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