Hold the Press — the Characters are in Charge!

Hello, Seafolk! This is a quick note to let you know I’m putting updates on hold for a while — the reason being that I had a major brainstorm about the plot and need to do an extensive re-write of the next scene, which will affect the whole outline down the road.

A bit about my process: the whole story arc is loosely outlined to the end; I have left it that way because webcomics have a way of developing as they go, getting thicker and richer. I script the pages, down to the least bit of dialogue and exchange of glances, about two or three scenes in advance, before I set pencil, pen and brush to paper. I want to know pretty much what I’m going to be drawing, as that is the really labour-intensive part, and I don’t want to be doing any of that over! But even that mutates between thumbnail sketches and the full-sized page as ideas to make it better flow.

You’ve no doubt noticed we’re heading in to a new scene — in my script I had only allowed for a brief meeting with just Annabelle; but some other characters are clamouring to get into the act, and as I think this will substantially improve what is to come, as well as move the story along nicely, I’m giving them their heads. However, it’s not just this one scene that will be altered; the changes I have in mind will reverberate clear down to the end of the outline.

In the meantime, I have been doing quite a bit of character and location sketching (and will obviously be doing some more!) and I’ll make a few posts here on the blog to talk a bit about my process. Wish me luck in not getting lost in the plot (if you don’t hear from me soon, send out the dolphins)!

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Preliminary sketch for Hunter Island Guesthouse.

Where Have the Merfolk Gone?

Hello, finny friends! The merfolk, Sami, and I have been exploring the deeps of a new kind of ocean: the Sea of Improved Eyesight. I won’t go into the details here; if you’re curious, you can read a couple of my blog posts here and here about it. Suffice it to say, hard on the heels of recovering from the month of bronchitis (and missing several conventions), I had cataract surgery/corrective implant in one eye, a month of very wonky eyesight, and finally the second one a couple of weeks ago.

I’m now learning how to draw again, with the aid of drugstore reading glasses; it will be six weeks before I can get prescription ones to truly even up my eyes. (I feel like I’ve passed another official milestone into senior-hood — got the discounts, got the cane, got the reading glasses, sheesh!).

I do have a small stack of Mermaid Music pages in pencil stage lolling about the studio, but as I’m trying to catch up with deadlines for two book projects (one of them another sea book!) right now, they are languishing in the queue. At this point, I’m projecting mid-to-late September to get the story going again. I find myself just wishing I were writing a novel — each page takes so long!

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Mermaid Music pages, stuck in the plankton stage! 

The Zooly Art Challenge (rhymes with July) has been helpful in keeping me at the drawing board; I’ve had to resort to big loose paintings, not at all like my comics with the nice inked outlines and all. You can see the development in the posts I’ve been doing here, here, here, and here. If you’d like to get involved, we’ve decided to keep going beyond the month of July, and form a Facebook group with weekly instead of daily challenges. You’ll be able to find that through the main Zooly Facebook page for information on how to join. There are people of all levels there, from beginners to pros, so it will be a great place to hang out, wherever you’re at in your creative practice.

So thanks for being patient with my fits and starts — Mermaid Music will return after the summer. *cue music* See you… in September!

PS: I know a lot of you are receiving this by email, but if you’d like to get a heads-up on all the things I’m doing, and some cool digital goodies, I now have an email newsletter you can subscribe to:

My twice-monthly MailChimp list has exclusives for newsletter subscribers — art tips, works in progress, breaking news about my projects, free digital stuff like colouring pages and downloadable art and comics, and handy links so you can navigate to my webcomics.

MailChimp is a super-ethical e-mail list platform that never gives away or sells your information. You can unsubscribe anytime you want, and I promise I won’t swamp you with e-mails (who’s got time for that anyway?). Why not give it a try?
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Convention Crunch!

No, that’s not a new breakfast cereal, but what I find myself in right now! Yesterday was the first of my five scheduled conventions for this spring, with the next three weekends booked, all away-from-home conventions. Then a bit of a breather before a one-day local event. Today I made a long list of all the stuff I have to get done in the brief times I’m at home in between cons — I got exhausted just writing it!

What this means for me (and for you, dear readers) is that Mermaid Music is about to slow down for a bit. In fact, if I had any sense at all, I’d just put it on hiatus until the conventions are over and be done with it, but I do have a couple of pages in process, so I’ll just say they will go up when they are finished.

In the meantime, here’s some news — my long-term children’s book project is finally being published, by Heritage House Publishing Company right here in Victoria BC. This book and its almost-finished sequel have been years in the making, and I feel it’s some of the finest work I’ve ever done. The paintings and drawings had to be scientifically accurate but also tell a story and be appealing to look at — a challenging order, but very satisfying to fulfill. The book is called Explore the Wild Coast with Sam and Crystal and is available for pre-order right now. Here’s the cover:

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And if you’re missing your webcomic fix while I’m running around Canada promoting my comics, and if you like zany cat stories, please head on over to my other webcomic, The Quadra Cats! I’ve already got two books done and am posting pages twice a week (the webcomic is currently nearing the end of the first book), so they won’t be interrupted by convention season. The Quadra Cats is silly and fun, and I hope you enjoy it. Here’s the cover for the first book:

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So I will be seeing you again soon, one place or another — you can keep track of my trajectory on my main art blog, Karen Gillmore Art. If you are at any of the conventions (see the sidebar for quick links), please stop by and say hi. It means so much to me to meet or hear from readers. Let me know if you like the Quadra Cats if you check that out, too!

A Week Off

Hello, Dear Denizens of the Deep, I’ve reluctantly decided to take this week off of posting a comic page. ‘Tis the season for surprises, and I got a rush commission for a book cover this week (yay!) that used up pretty much all my available time and art-creating energies (boo!). Also, ’tis the season for art events and such, and I was involved as a participant in three such extravaganzas this weekend. *whew*! I am now a person-shaped puddle of jelly with my feet up on a pillow.

So rather than drawing the next-to-last page of this dramatic scene between our youthful mer-rascals with a shaking hand and drooping eyelids, I’m going to rest up for a couple of days, get back on track, and provide you with the next bit of the story at the regular time next week.

In the meantime, I’ll give you a sneak peek at what kept me from the ongoing undersea shenanigans — a book cover for a new Spam, the Cat story by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. I took progress scans as I was going along, and will be doing a blog post over on my other blog about that, but remember, you saw it here first! I’ll post a link when I get the in-progress post done, which will also tell you where you can get this fun seasonal e-story.

And yes, it has nothing to do with Mermaids, but hey… cats! And a raccoon!

UPDATE: It’s up on Amazon already!
If you’re in Canada, here’s the link.
For US Amazon, go to this link.

It’s probably up for other countries as well; just do a search on whatever link to Amazon you usually use.

UPDATE 2: Finally got around to making that blog post about the process!

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Schedule Change!

Hi Mer-folks! I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been up to lately — it’s been a busy time in my little world.

First: I’ve decided to move my posting day back to Monday. There are a couple of reasons for that; one is that the common wisdom of posting webcomics (I’ve been reading books on it!) is that Monday is the best day to do it in terms of readership (apparently people look at webcomics at work — really? I want that job! OK, I guess I take breaks to look at webcomics too, heh); so in aid of Monday procrastinators everywhere, I’ll bow to the pressure. The other reason is that my own schedule has had some changes, and this will now work better for my own work flow.

Root Redwing and the Thieves of Kettle Bay

Root encounters a young mermaid and her pet octopus! Like dogs, octopuses should be well trained.

Remember this? I posted last spring that I was making a comic about Root Redwing as a younger woman, which was published in the Kraken Komiks anthology “Cephalopods”. Kraken had a six-month exclusive on it, which has now expired, and I will be posting the entire story as a Mermaid Music special in between chapters of the main story (chapter two is drawing to a close) sometime in November! This will give me a chance over the holidays to catch up on my backlog (is that some kind of a verbal paradox?) as well as give me a chance to do some organizational changes to this website.

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Winding up the show at the Shatterbox  Coffee Bar (I’m all hopped up on good coffee here)— those are the mer-cats on the wall behind me! It was a delight having my art in the cafe setting rather than a gallery for a change; it feels more homey, somehow.

I’ve finished the children’s book I was illustrating, as well as illustrations for an adult-level educational book — what an intense summer and fall! And I can’t show off any of it yet (picture me dancing around in frustration, clutching my portfolio of top secret documents), but should be able to in a month or so, when the publisher’s catalogue comes out. The children’s book will be coming out in April, and I am very proud of the work I did for it, so I’m very excited about its release. It’s quite different from my comics work, much of it involving very detailed paintings and drawings of lots of sea critters, which had to be scientifically accurate. But there was also some narrative illustration, which gave me a chance for some storytelling and even some humour.

I’m taking part in Inktober again this year, which is a drawing challenge started by Jake Parker, which has spread like wildfire all over the art world. As with the Opus drawing challenge I did in February, I’m planning to make a little book out of it. I’m using a Moleskine Japanese Album again, which has accordion folded pages, just enough for a month’s drawing-a-day. It’s such a good warmup, I think I will keep going with it after this month — I think my next book should be mer-folk (and mer-cats, of course)!

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A drawing from my Inktober 2016 project. The little sketchbook is based on my nostalgia for old Mark Trail Sunday comics, and I think I’ll call it “True Animal Facts and Lies”. The drawings are 3.5 x 5.5 inches, about the size of a typical comic panel, and based on a prompt word for each day. Ink and coloured pencil.

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A tidepool Inktober cartoon. I did a similar (but more scientific and detailed and without captions) drawing for the upcoming children’s book. It was fun to do a bit of anthropomorphizing! 3.5 x 5.5 inches, ink and coloured pencil

See you on Monday with the next page of Mermaid Music!

Summer Seas

Hello readers! I’m surfacing from the ocean of work I’ve dived into, inhaling a few deep breaths to let you know I’m OK and so is our story. Mermaid Music will resume posting on September 9. Fear not, Maggie is having a good time on that life ring, so just consider it a summer vacation for her!

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a book about the sea — I’m hoping to be able to reveal some of the artwork for this soon. I’m also working on a solo show to be hung in August that will be only cats — including a few catfish, so I’ll post those soon. In the meantime, here’s a scratchboard piece I did while working on the first drawings for the book, inspired by the paintings I was doing at the time:

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Scratchboard is a specially coated board from which you scratch the black surface, revealing the white underneath. It’s kind of like drawing in reverse, and often ends up looking a lot like a linocut or woodcut.

I spent much of July sorting, packing, and moving out of my long-time studio at Xchanges, an arts cooperative. After 23 years, I have all my art supplies under one roof! My little home studio won’t hold it all, so I’ve been playing Santa with all my artist friends. It’s fun, and kind of liberating, to be honing my artistic possessions down to just what I need for illustration and comics. No more large painting, no more big canvases to store… except the ones I’ve already done.

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My ex-studio, with stuff I gave away laid out on the tables before the move. I had a crew of wonderful friends who helped my schlepp what was left down the two flights of stairs!

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Much of what I kept is now stowed on the back porch (we won’t mention the chaotic pile in the music room). I think I’m going to have to have another giving-away party! My little studio upstairs where I do illustration and make comics is pretty much full and functions well already, so I’ve got my work cut out for me in organizing all this.

I treated myself to a vacation at a beach resort at Qualicum Bay for a few days after the move — oh boy, did I need that! My friends and I stayed in a camping cabin, quite a new experience for me, as I’m usually a tenter. We explored the local beaches, lakes and rivers for a few days; a lovely watery break (it rained, with thunder and lightning, so we even got sky water!) Here’s an adorable little crab from Parksville Beach:

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This little guy was one of a myriad of tiny crabs exposed at low tide on the broad sandy beach, their shells only about an inch across. The beach is also home to millions of sand dollars — a very rich place!

See you in a month, aboard The Mermaid once again!

Taking a Break

Hi folks — I’ll be taking a (hopefully short) break from Mermaid Music. I’m dealing with some health issues that have cropped up this week, one of which is a very sore drawing hand. I’m hoping to have all this sorted out soon, but it may be a few weeks before I’m able to get our soggie moggie, Maggie out of the water. I’ve also got a looming deadline for a large illustration project I’m working on (two children’s books, about the sea!), so I’ve got to save what drawing I’m able to do for that. More about the books when I get permission from the publisher to post about it.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of mermaid art that I did last winter during my Art Zombie phase:

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From “Practice”, a wee book I made from the drawings I did for the month-long Opus Practice Challenge. Every day there was a prompt word; that day’s was “reflection”.

New Posting Day

Hi there Merfolk, I’ve decided to change my posting day to Fridays, for a number of reasons. The main one is that I always seem to be putting the finishing touches on a page , scanning, and scheduling for posting on the weekend, and my weekends are often very full — I’m a musician as well, and that’s when the gigs happen! My weekdays, on the other hand, are when I do my artwork, and I’m trying to establish a rhythm (and a bit of separation) between my two jobs.

Since this is a holiday weekend (at least here in Canada) I’m going to take this opportunity to make the swap. I’ll have the next page ready for your enjoyment next weekend, wherein we learn more about these young denizens of the deep.

In other news:

The Kraken Komiks Cephalopods anthology is compiled, laid out, and at the printers waiting proofing — we’ll be seeing the physical results on Wednesday. The artwork looks great — I’m really impressed with the quality and the variety of ways people can interpret a theme. In lieu of a regular Monday page, here’s another whole page from my story — Root gets to wrestle an octopus! This is actually a kind of prequel to the thread that is beginning in the main story, though it took place years before — Root is a young woman here.

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Root Redwing meets her match in “Root Redwing and the Thieves of Kettle Bay”, a short story in the new Kraken Komiks anthology “Cephalopods”!

If you’d like to see some more samples from it (I showed one in my last post), here’s the Kraken Komiks facebook album with samples of everyone’s artwork! If you’d like to order one, head over to my own Facebook Page, and send me a message. I’m basing how many I order on pre-orders. Once we have the physical book in hand, we’ll be able to weigh it and figure out the postage to various locations.

Also, I’ll have a table at a couple of conventions in April-May: CCAF in Victoria, BC, and VanCAF in Vancouver BC, and I’ll have copies of all my comics, as well as the next physical book of Mermaid Music, and Cephalopods. More about that soon!

Now, back to the deeps — I’ll see you on Friday with the next new Mermaid Music post!

Spring Forward—Ack! I Tripped!

Hi folks, there will be a slight delay in this week’s Mermaid Music — I’ll be posting tomorrow (Tuesday) instead of today. All kinds of things have been happening here — new projects, new neighbours, tons of events— and, well, I’ve burned through my buffer again. Never fear, however; we’ll be back on track with a proper Monday post next week.

The most exciting project with relevance to this comic is that I’ve just completed an eight-page story about Root Redwing in her younger days for an anthology by Kraken Komiks, a group of comics creators that I hang out with here in Victoria, BC. Here’s a panel with an actual MERMAID to make up for you having to wait until tomorrow for the next instalment!

Root encounters a young mermaid and her pet octopus! Like dogs, octopuses should be well trained.

Root encounters a young mermaid and her pet octopus! Like dogs, octopuses should be well trained.

It was drawn in ink, with brush-pen, somewhat larger then I usually work, then coloured digitally in greyscale with Photoshop (which took way longer than watercolour, by the way — but I’ve been doing watercolour for about a million years and digital only a couple). I learned a lot doing it though, as I did a lot of experimenting to get it to look the way I had envisioned it. I’ve worked very little in greyscale, either digitally or traditionally; it’s always been straight black-and-white or full colour for me. This was harder than either!

If you’re interested in what else I’ve been up to the last month or so, head on over to my main blog, Karen Gillmore Art! I’ll post more about the upcoming anthology soon; the theme is cephalopods, and it will be in print around the middle of April! I’m also planning to have a new print issue of Mermaid Music out by Mid-May, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: Well, the new page is posted, and technically, it’s still Monday (it’s 11:35pm). Hope it was worth the wait!

Progress!

Sometimes I've been feeling like I'm swimming upstream — but I think I've found the flow!

Sometimes I’ve been feeling like I’m swimming upstream — but I think I’ve found the flow!

Hi folks, I’m still working on getting the comic back in action, but in the meantime, I’d like to fill you in on what I have been doing! It’s been an incredibly busy couple of months since I last posted. I have finished the two huge illustration jobs I was working on (still can’t talk about them until they’re published, but I can say that one of them is about undersea stuff!) and done a couple of other smaller ones. The bills come first, alas!

I’ve also been part of a group of local comics artists that launched in September, and we are doing some really exciting networking, and planning some publishing projects for the spring. I took part in Inktober, a world-wide initiative which I wrote about here, here, here, and here. It was great to relax and do some little, one-off drawings, and it kind of cleared my head for getting back into the comic.

But the big, big, BIG news, is that I’ve finally broken the ice on having an online shop. I’ve been doing tons of research, trying to decide how to make my art available, and decided to start with a POD (print on demand) company called Redbubble. I just uploaded my first design tonight, and it’s page 36 from this very webcomic where Sami spies the mermaid amongst the dolphins! It works very well as a print I think. I wrote a bit more about it, with links to the shop, on my regular blog. Please go check it out!

I’ll be back with more news about Mermaid Music very soon!