Tuesday began with a bit of a kerfuffle. I was already a nervous wreck because we were visiting DC Comics. Yes, THAT DC comics. As in, Batman, Superman, and pretty much my childhood heroes. No pressure! I came downstairs and could not find my group. After a panicked phonecall to John Lowe, my professor, I found out we were leaving later. Phew. More time to indulge in Madam Xanadu, then! We head to the legendary head of DC.
Now. I always knew DC would more or less be a cubicle. I mean, who was I to expect comic book artists had zippy offices? Well, I was wrong. Each floor is modeled after a different DC City. Floor two was Gotham, and Floor Seven was Metropolis. The reception desk there was the top of the Daily Planet Building. Naturally I was shrieking and dying inside. And taking photos. A lot of them.
We then sat down with a group of editors for Vertigo, my favorite DC Imprint. I got some great feedback, and it was mostly positive, if not a bit simple. "We like your stuff! …But there's nowhere we can put it…" That's alright, I knew that already. But they offered great feedback from another perspective. Often, Manga-style artists have as rigid a way to look at their layouts and style as Western style comics do. It's nice to switch it up from time to time. If anything, it was just a fangirly treat to be in DC's headquarters!
After being pulled from DC before I could swipe all of the figures they had in their display case, we stopped for lunch. The boys decided to have Ethiopian food. Now. I'm used to eating things in Japan that had still-wriggling tails, and all manner of odd meat and spicy Indian curries. But for whatever reason, the fact that the bread we were meant to use as utensils had the consistency of human skin sort of undid me. Amber and I scurried to a Chinese restaurant.
We were on our way to our next destination when I got stuck on the train and separated from my group! Never fear, we were able to get back. We met the great Cliff Chiang in Bergen Street Comics; which was a treat, as we got to explore this gorgeous shop while we were there. It was a lovely shop, far more like a book store than a comic shop, which people expect to be inhabited by greasy, smelly comic nerds. This was classy!
Cliff took us to his very, very nice apartment and showed us his method and his pace. He had a great work ethic and a great set-up. He even gave us one of his sketchbooks for free, full of his delicious convention sketches. He draws women very deliciously, and there's a fun spirit and life in his drawings that I admire. I'm very excited to get a hold of his Greendale book, which he showed us the pages from.
After we were through, I scrambled off to do what I do best. Go to Strand, get a whole armful of books (Again. This is becoming a pattern.) And spent the evening drawing and relaxing. The next morning would have an early start!
Just as threatening as DC was the New York Times. I joined the Illustration class that day. We waited a long time in the lobby of the Times, waiting for clearance to go inside. This gave me the time to grab a nice bite to eat and visit the MUJI shop next-door. Mmm, design-friendly items! We finally got in, and learned a bit about how the NYT employs their illustrators, and what they look for. The workspace was very interesting, a crowd of desks surrounding a single large table to collaborate over. It was a very inspiring space, lots of creativity running by, and there was certainly a strong buzz through the whole building. It was incredibly inspiring to think how much of the world's news pulses through this building.
We were set loose for a quick lunch. Surprisingly, one of my best meals here was a quick chicken sandwich and garlic knots from a tiny hole-in-the-wall grill. We scuttled on our way quickly. To one of the most lifechanging experiences I've ever had. It's not what you think- not a job, not a sighting or a show. It was a critique- the critique to end all critiques.
We met with Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins- two fantasy illustrators and artists, a team. They were a young couple, and their tastes and style seemed very in-tune with mine. Zelda gave an insightful lecture about life post-SCAD. She had incredible, sharp wisdom, and I mustered up all of the courage I could to ask them to look at my portfolio. Shortly after I realized the way my portfolio was arranged was completely amateur and childish, which got pointed out, the rest of the class moved on, and I stayed. I told them both to let me have it. And they did.
The critique lasted hours, and I eventually cracked after two and cried. Nothing felt right about my art after that. I felt hopeless. I didn't think I would ever be worth anything. I felt like I had wasted the last three years, if not the whole of my life, pursuing a career that was far out of my reach. However, Zelda and Kurt didn't let me murk down there for very long, and genuinely and honestly cared for my improvement. It was the most I had ever been torn apart in my life. Had I been lied to my whole art career? Were all of those kind critiques simply an evasion from hurting my feelings?? Did people think I was too fragile to handle the truth?
It was all I could do not to stagger down the steps and huddle in a tiny ball. But something strange bubbled somewhere in the pit of my chest. Determination. I was not going to let myself crumple. I went right to Strand- and picked up a How To Make Books guide, armfuls of reference books and art guides. If my portfolio wasn't right, I would make it so. Zelda told me there was hope for me, and I keep that hope pinned on my sleeve.
That night, I went to A Little Night Music, and sat in the front row. I was so close I could rest my chin on the stage. It was glorious musically and staging, and I loved being so close to see all of the rows of ruffles and lace. I followed Zelda and Kurt's suggestions to always draw- and so I propped my knees up and drew figure drawings as the actors and actresses swirled across stage. Angela Landsbury was ill that night, so she wasn't present, but Catherine Zeta-Jones was a delight! I kept hearing her as Velma in Chicago. I was asked not to in Intermission, but I produced some nice drawings! I'll scan them when I get home.
For the sake of the reader I'll break this, on to the next days!