Category Archives: General Musings

The Week Behind; The Week Ahead: Sept 18

Phew. There’s a whirlwind going on, y’all. We are in the last few days of a major Kickstarter campaign run by my publisher, Comicker Press, to bring five different graphic novels from digital into print. The first volume of Waking Life is among them, and at 2/3 funding with five days to go, I am figuratively on pins and needles!

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(I say figuratively because, folks, I’m an English teacher, and I just spent the past few weeks of school reinforcing for my kids that figurative language isn’t literal. And I literally want to be the best role model possible for my students. )

Last week was the start of the whirlwind. My brother in comics– Tyler Ellis— and I spent the weekend of the 9th at Staple in Austin. It’s the best indie comics show in the southern U.S., and a real highlight of the year. Getting time to meet new faces and reconnect with previous acquaintances was a real treat.

But I moved straight from that into a full week of classes, vocab, and test prep– the first full week of school since we began, thanks to Hurricane Harvey. Having spent a lot more time together, my students taught me a few things in the process:

A) Never arm-wrestle a student whose biceps are larger than your head

B) Roblox is… a thing. Potentially bigger than Harambe was to last year’s group. There’s a reason everyone’s saying OOF a lot.

C) A single misspelling can end up being more profound than a hundred sincerely meant words.

I also decided to try my hand at fan art– i.e., the practice of drawing already-existing characters. Part of this is because I need to up my illustration game; part of it’s because I’d like to improve at digital drawing as well. I feel a lot of personally-induced pressure when working on Waking Life to make my pages look awesome, but that eliminates a little bit of the sense of play and discovery. I need an outlet for that, and I figured drawing characters I’ve enjoyed from other areas in a casual way creates that opportunity. To wit:

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Tyrion and Bronn are one of my favorite unlikely buddy comedies duos of the moment

Geordi and Data: some of my favorite odd-couple bros in all of science fiction.

I also discovered the utility of Instagram’s Stories feature (thanks, Christin), so now I’m annoying people with mildly humorous videos several times a day. Being half as funny as you think you are is the job of a father, though, so I’m staying on brand. Also, it DID give me the opportunity to document a major mishap that happened last night:

 

Finally, I had a few rad opportunities to chat up media folks about Waking Life and our soon-to-finish campaign. The Baylor Lariat, where I did my first public cartooning work, was kind enough to offer me an interview, which should be dropping this week. Also, Tyler and I will be doing a live AMA with our Comicker crew tonight at 7:00 central— we’d love to have you drop in and ask a few Q’s, give a few comments, and talk shop.

More to come next week, so stay tuned. I’ll have a story about how the campaign finishes up, one way or another. Until then, here’s a taste of things to come:

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Filed under Comics, fan art, General Musings, Sketchbook, Teaching

Month in Review: May

May is apparently the time when we change gears at the church. Major events wind down as families plan for vacations and summer sports, which requires less design and communication from my department. That means my responsibilities have shifted more toward short-form video production– which I intend to post more about soon– and away from pure graphics work.

Still, here’re a few bits and pieces from the past month that I’ve had a hand in:

Shirt design for our volunteer thank-you party.

A mockup of the same.

Artwork for one of the more popular (and messy!) events our children’s ministry puts on.

Preliminary art for a camp t-shirt.

And once again, the Interfaith Directory ad from earlier this month!

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And So I Join the Instagram Copyists

I got into the graphics game by learning to create images– not by manipulating them. It’s anachronistic of me– most of our modern marketing and advertising, et al, is dependent on photography and the adjustment thereof. So I’m wading into those waters slowly.

Chris Spooner helped. He’s a designer I came across who offers some very savvy tutorials, one of which concerned how to make your photos look like they were fished out of an old Polaroid camera (or for short, “Instagram”).

So in the past few weeks, whenever I’ve had to do photo-oriented designs, I’ve relied heavily on Chris’s advice. I may be behind the times on the retro-analog craze, but I’ll be darned if I don’t wear myself out catching up!

Evidence below.

Ad for The Woodlands Interfaith 2012 directory. Photography by Jordan Bradley; top banner by Vince Mims.

Rack card for a school supply drive; photo courtesy of Tia Plum.

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Wives and Wheels (of Time)!

My wife is a talented woman in ways that I can’t fathom and that leave me absolutely envious. One of which is her clear and natural way of writing, which she doesn’t think is the case– but that’s a crock, says I!

Some great proof of her authorial brilliance is now up at Tellurian Things— mosey on over and check out her overview of The Wheel of Time series!

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Filed under Book Review, General Musings

Adventures in Branding

We’ve just wrapped up our month-long capital campaign at work, and it’s been a major lesson in communication and identity-generation. When you’re asking people to donate extra money to a non-profit that they already support (in this case, a church), you have to implement a lot of moving pieces to cast the vision… multiple videos (like this one), websites, print pieces, banners, posters… even small ephemera like nametags and rubber wrist bracelets.

But it all centers around a brand… something symbolic that quickly communicates the vision and feel of the project. For our Ask God project, the primary message was that we as a church needed to ask God how we should grow for the future. So there was a major emphasis on requests– both toward the congregation (to give) and to God (for wisdom). And our secondary message was that growing meant building new facilities– a children’s building and a food pantry specifically, along with some renovations to existing buildings.

My supervisor, David, and I both contributed ideas for the campaign logo. Here are some of my efforts:

The Hebraic aspect on this one was probably a little distracting from the project goal.

This was a more illustrative pass. In retrospect, we've got more of a photo-oriented aesthetic around here.

Ultimately, however, David’s vision and experience carried the day (and rightly so). What David successfully did was integrate both elements into his design. You’ll see the request element as well as a subtle hint at the upcoming construction projects. He combined it all with a rugged aesthetic that suggested that we were getting involved in a very hands-on effort. Check it out:

After the logo was approved, we went to work on a lot of those moving pieces. I got to be responsible for projects like the project website, the slide show, and posters that showed the renovation plans. Here’s one of my favorites, using the architectural plans for our property:

Ultimately, we were able to raise enough to get started, enabling us to expand in ways that have been long overdue. It was a good, busy season.

And as soon as it was done, it was time to get started on the equally-busy Christmas season.

Next: Getting Ready for the Holidays.

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How We Spent Our Hallow’s Eve

Our first grown-up Halloween. Next year, we’re buying twice the candy and giving out half as much.

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A Dose of Reality and a Reaction Thereunto

Apparently, I’m about to have a severe problem in my profession of choice. I’m about to teach high school English, right? Guess what my professor told me today:

“Not all of your students will be able to read on grade-level, especially not in an average class. No matter what you teach, you must expect it.

“And it’s not their fault.”

Okay.

To be fair, this was told to my entire class, which is a seminar on Reading in Secondary Schools. And we had good reason to believe it: we’d just spent some time discussing a short article by Charles Hargis that had respectable data to back it up. Tough to argue with data.

(Here’s a link to the first page; you can see the rest if you have access through JSTOR)

If I’m reading the data right, at least 25% of high school sophomores won’t even be able to read at the eighth grade level. And some will still be down at about the 4th grade level.

How do you teach The Tragedy of Julius Caesar to THAT group?

Okay, cool. So a pretty good chunk of my kids might not be that literate. Shoulda’ stayed with the coffee shop.

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BUT WAIT! Maybe my kids ARE pretty literate!

Yesterday, I mentioned the other stuff we’re supposed to be learning about Web 2.0 and the classroom. Again, it makes me a little nervous. But not my kids. They’re already way, way up on the tech stuff. I’d say, in fact, that they’re plenty literate,  (if u don’t mind ur sentences lookin like a txt msg.)

Example: at one of my tutoring assignments, I worked with a few kids who had to take credit recovery courses online. Most of the time, that’s because they never bothered to learn the material in the first place. So what’d they do to make it up? Actually read the book? Heck no. At test time, they’d Google the answers in a separate window and cut-and-paste.

I mean, my dad’s proud that he can make a PowerPoint. I’m proud that I can actually create this blog  post you’re reading right now. But my kids? More than capable of Oliver Twist-ing their way through a semester’s-worth of coursework with just a few points and clicks. Ingenious. Let’s nurture that.

What if I can help my increase one form of literacy by using another? What if I can get my kids to read and write better by playing around online?

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Now here’s where Part III comes in:

Drew this guy in that reading class today...

Look what I just uploaded. A cartoon. One of a literary figure, no less.

If there’s one thing I can be sure all my kids CAN read, it’s a comic. Not just the white-boy nerds with their copies of  Superman. Naw, also my skater and Hot-Topic kids with their Manga. Or the hispanic students who take advantage of the fotonovelas at our local library. Or anyone who’s ever cracked a newspaper to read The Boondocks or Garfield.

Cartoons and comics are still regarded as trash, in some ways. This is not me griping. But I also know that if you want to get up a mountain, you gotta start at the foothills. And comics are a great way to take rudimentary decoding and cognitive abilities and use them to extract understanding.

And my kids can totally draw a stick figure with a caption box. Also interesting anatomy, if they’re so inclined (and probably in the bathroom stall).

So what if… I started the year off by having my kids read a comic and teaching the literary principles therein? That would lay groundwork and build some confidence. Then, what if I had them respond to the reading by BLOGGING about it. Or inviting them all to Google Wave and having them post to that and comment on each others’ posts in real-time?

What if I even had them draw their own cartoons and upload those, to comment on the stuff we read and talk about in the classroom?

I’m not saying that this is an all-year kind of deal. But if I can show my kids that they’re skilled enough to comprehend a thing they read, and then competent enough to respond to it by PUBLISHING something (even online), might that not help the overall literacy of the kids I teach?

I dunno. But taking the old, old art of picture-writing and mixing it with the new wave of online authorship?

That’s poetry.

And given a little luck, maybe we can even get my kids to read THAT!

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