Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Intervention Review

I only got one pic of our group's full setup that actually had some of the Precocious table in it. Enjoy. That's Becca of Nattosoup on the left and Emily Kluwin on the right.

My original goal with Intervention was simple: This was a DC-area con, which meant a lot to me. I want a "home" convention, where I can be happy and successful and have lots of friends and contacts around me. Precocious is a weird entity. It's not comic enough for comic cons. It's not furry enough for furry cons. I have no idea how anime cons will look at it, as I'm so distanced from anime culture at this point. It's a webcomic, but how many webcomic conventions that help out those with moderate fan bases exist? How many are viable options, when travel and hotel is factored into cost?  Intervention was an interned-themed convention. If it was weird and geeky, it was welcomed. This sounded like a place anyone online could call home, and I was hopeful.

I never expected a big sales windfall. This was a small con, and I was coming off experiencing the cruelty small cons can have. (I did, however, mentally make this a test to see how a general population would feel about my work.) What I expected was moderate sales with enough free time to go around and play with the other dealers. I love talking shop with dealers, because they *know* how it is, and I can learn so much from them as well as, of course, make some excellent friends. This was a convention at which I had someone I knew and could talk to on nearly every aisle. I've felt like such an outsider during my furry con circuit, so this was very comforting. I had SCAD friends, fellow members of the SpiderForest Webcomic Collective, bros from my TWCL days, webcomics I had read or advertised on, and, yes, a furry exhibitor making a crossover I could chat with too. So that was it: Socialize and sell enough to justify my existence!

It became very clear on Friday that half of my plan was about to crash and burn. It was dead in the dealer room. A large number of dealers (many of which I assume came last year and knew what to expect) skipped Friday completely. It felt like the vast majority of those who came by my table were fellow dealers or dealer assistants. This was socially good, because dealers don't usually get time to mingle. I had a great time just hanging out with them - but the realization that I had paid mightily to do so stuck in the mind. Dealer sales are bittersweet. It's great to be appreciated by others 'in the biz' but you know most of them are in the same situation as you. The industry can't sustain itself if it's the same $20 bill flying around the room.  To sum up Friday, I had a blast going around the room and chatting with folks for an hour - before I realized I still had my cash box key in my pocket, which meant no one could cover any sales while I was away. It turned out not to matter. I made some sales on Friday, but the grumbles had already started from the tablemates I  had convinced to join me on this adventure.

Socially, however, the con was great. No traffic meant lots of dealer playing. I got to catch up with Rascals, Rogues and Dames crew, Becca and Heidi, I left behind when I moved away from Savannah. We hooked up with local SCAD grad, Emily, to finish off the foursome. This was my first chance to talk with fellow members of the SpiderForest collective, including the awesome people of Riven Sol, Snow By Night, LaSalle's Legacy, Apple Valley and Adrastus. I got to finally meet buds from my early days of comicking, and long-standing members of my recommended reading list, Mark of Autumn Lake and Dave of Slightly Off-Topic. I ended up chatting a bunch with my neighbors too. Mookie, of the long-running Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire gave me lots of insightful advice. Deanna of Kindling and La Machina Bellica was totally my corner buddy, as we kept each other entertained (at least, I *hope* it went both ways) during lulls. Which were often. Across from the other side of our table was the lovely Duae Designs duo of Eric and Cat, who were selling the cutest amigurumi (figures knitted from yarn) I have ever seen. Our group left with a bunch of them, and now all I can think of is what Precocious characters would look like in Eric's style.

Eric and Cat also made up part of our after-hours drink and draw group - which is noted for having minimal drinking and almost no drawing, just lots of awesome conversation.  Joining this group was also Julie Wright and Darrenn E. Canton. This is where lack of work was great. I've always had homework at cons, or been too tired to play much, so just hanging out and sharing silly stories is something I've never experienced. It was the most fun I've had in a long, long time.

And this is why I'm so conflicted about the con.  It was the highest of highs paired with some dismal lows. It is a marvelous social con, but largely bad for dealers... but my socializing is with dealers, so I need them to not give up! I want to make Intervention a yearly thing for me, but the crowd has to pick up or my friends will start disappearing when I come back.

The con is only in its third year, so growing pains are anticipated. Onezumi, the con head, is amazing at marketing and focusing all her energy on willing this con into existence - and that is both awesome and her curse.  At this point, we *expect* her to pull off miracles, because she's done 'em before.  She managed to pull in guests and dealers well above what the con probably deserved - and I hope that trend continues - but all these great efforts are wasted without people to actually come into the dealer room and buy things!

In two of its three years of existence (maybe all three - I wasn't paying attention last year because I was in Savannah and not actively conning then), Intervention has gotten smacked a bit by the great convention, the Small Press Expo.  As you can tell by the name, SPX is a dream con for someone like me.  I will do all I can to get in next year.  With two cons happening so close (even on the same weekend the first year), the audience buying power is diminished - and, naturally, it all goes to the higher-end con. From what I hear, SPX was a huge success for nearly everyone involved this year. Intervention success stories happened, but they were rare. Onezumi has already taken action to move Intervention away from SPX's might, which should improve things for next year.

Right now I see Intervention as a social con, with dealers as an afterthought. The reason a group of us chose to exhibit at the con is because all this good news was coming out about it. Pre-registration had doubled! The hotel block sold out three times over! People were coming! This con might double in size!  All these signs said the dealers room would be better, but I was told foot traffic was about half of last year's. Ouch. There needs to be something bringing the dealers back into this growing social con.  I understand the point of Intervention is to provide an umbrella to cover all the internetty things, but maybe more focus is needed. Imagine a theme to each year of the con. What if next year the theme is "The Power of Webcomics" with a major push that will cover and build up half of the dealers room!  The year after can be "Fandoms Unleashed" or "It Came from YouTube" or whatever.  Giving a specific internet theme to this internet con could benefit all. You'll get themed cosplay, themed panels, dealers would be able to focus their wares and people will KNOW what to expect.

For me, I will be back next year - probably with a table again - but I will have to take some major cost-cutting measures to do so. This year I was full of guilt, because my endorsement of Intervention brought in three more people that wouldn't have come otherwise. It was big investment for them, and the great socializing doesn't always offset a loss of hundreds of dollars per person. I felt responsible for costing them money, and I won't put myself in that position next year. Next year I will show up Friday morning and leave Sunday afternoon - saving two days of hotel costs. I could even stay with my brother and take the Metro in, but that means I miss some after-hours fun. I will still need sales to improve, but I can hope the con gets better.

I have faith that this convention can be willed into greatness. All the parts are coming together for that. It has been built. People just need to come.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I got PLANS, people!

With Intervention over (check out my review of it here) I now realize my site needs a new top news post. Well, all the fun stuff is a week away, so let me give you a rundown on what to expect from that fun stuff instead!

- This week is all about building up the Precocious buffer. I'm only two days ahead as of writing this post, but it's not so bad. I have outlines or scripts for the next two months, so all I gotta do is lock myself in my room and draw like a madman. 

- Copper Road returns on the first! It was supposed to be on Thursday, but the script that comic was tied to got pushed back when I beefed up the ending to this arc. Thanks for letting me slack off with the bonus content while I got caught up with the moving and conventioneering and stuff.

- Now that I've had a few mildly-successful streaming tests, I'll try to set up a real schedule so you'll know when to come hang out and chat. The current plan is to take watercolor commission and stream the results.

- I'll be selling or auctioning off my recent watercolor work, so posts about that will be appearing in this space soon!

- Stay tuned for details about what I'm doing for other types of commissions. I need to confirm a few things with my schedule before final decisions are made there. (That should be tantalizing to you, because those few things are kinda awesome.)

- I have no October conventions, but I will be at MFF in Chicago in November. After that, I'm looking for places to go. FWA in Atlanta (March) is an option. So is Fur the More in Baltimore (April), because I want to help grow any con that might like me and wants to base itself in the DC/Baltimore area. Some friends have invited me to try out Katsucon (February) and I'm open to trying other anime cons in the future. I don't know much about anime since 2004, but I'll give it a shot and see what the reaction to me is. If you go further on into next year, it looks like I'm going back-to-back with Anthrocon and Connecticon the first two weekends in July.

All in all, it's going to be a wild next two months, with lots of work - but lots of fun as well. Just... give me this week to build a buffer before I get it all in motion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Intervention this weekend! Come see me!

The good kind of intervention this time! Internet + Convention = Intervention!

As you can see by the map, I will be rocking table 19 - next to the wonderful Rascals, Rogues and Dames! I will have Precocious books to sketch in and your typical assortment of buttons and magnets. I will also be doing table and take-home commissions. (So tempted to bring my watercolors for the table, but something tells me that would end in disaster.)

My sketch for food/treats policy will be in effect! Be sure to follow my Twitter feed this weekend for running commentary, desperate pumpkin spice latte requests and updates on when I abandon my table to go play with other cartoonists.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Night of the Watercolors!

Today seemed like it was going to be a loss. I woke up feeling terrible, and I didn't stop feeling terrible until around 7pm. By then, I had given up and decided to watch some Homeland via On Demand... but I have lots to do before Intervention next weekend, so I must use all my wellness!

I had mentioned I was going to do a dapper owl last night for the convention - Intervention's mascot is an owl - and that seemed the proper project. (I had the reference pic open from the night before anyway.) The goal here was cartoony fun, and I had cartoony fun. I win. (You can click on all the paintings for a larger version.)

Weeeeell, in order to make that owl painting, I had to rip my watercolor paper into four parts. Since I already had my painting setup out, why not keep going? I wasn't sure what I was going to paint, but I figured a fox would fit well in my con portfolio, no matter the con. Who doesn't like foxes?

When finished, I posted the pic to twitter... and got 15 favs/follows/compliments/retweets in five minutes from it. Maybe this is something good! Let's keep painting! (Note for readers/followers: Artists crave all those feedback things. Silence = perceived failure.)

I began looking for reference pics, taking some twitter advice, and found a cute calico that I wanted to paint. (I should note here that I change around the composition for all pics, so it's not a direct copy. The original calico photo was actually a shot from the behind the cat.) I had started laying down paint when I decided I was finally feeling good enough to be social, so I did an impromptu stream!  (Poor people that showed up were subjected to the usual bad camera angle, but this time also had to suffer through me watching the Nationals/Braves game.)

One page left to paint, I went with a request and did a cutesy squirrel. This one was finished pretty quickly, so I decided to pull out my smaller watercolor pad and take another request.

I'd had a request for a genet earlier in the night, and I taunted the poor person. Well, I'm a softy, and the request was repeated, so I did a quick image search and found an adorable baby pic I could use.

By the time this one was gone, I was all painted out - and all my watchers had abandoned me. The night of watercolor had ended! (I don't blame 'em for leaving. Listening to local baseball commentary, with heavy political commercials every break, since VA is a battleground state, must have been awful.)

These pieces will be put into my Intervention portfolio, and I think I can add critter paintings to my commission catalog. Bonus:  Commission a watercolor, and you can watch me paint it over a stream!

Edit: For the record, the large pieces were all 11x7.5" while the genet was 8.5x5.5"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ursula alone

Here's the individual Ursula file I snuck into the cast photo, since most of it was hidden. (Just a reminder that the rest of that composition is a single drawing, so I can't cycle characters in and out, or move them around.)

This sort of pic is also an option for the new cast page, whenever that may happen. I have a stack of 4x6" index cards, and I thought I might draw the character pics on those. It works for the kids, but it might get tricky for the more vertical-oriented adults. We shall see. I suppose this project could be a streaming project too.

Cast Poster 2.0!

Because I can!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Wheel of Fortune

As promised, here is the piece I used for my second contribution to The Webcomics Tarot Project: The Wheel of Fortune! Go to the website to see it in card form, and make sure to check out my Copper Road contribution there too: The King of Wands. Both pieces from this project will be for sale soon - I just need to figure out the best method of offering them. I'd like to try an auction, but where and how has yet to be determined.

I did this piece in a special way, too! I STREAMED! It wasn't planned at all. Some organizing left my new webcam sitting on my desk, so I opened it and plugged it in. Hey, it worked! I went to Ustream and logged in, then click the "broadcast" button. Hey, I was streaming! Setup took, like, two minutes! So, hey, check out my streaming page! I don't have a good streaming setup yet - thanks to those who came today, as feedback is very valuable at this point - nor do I have a set schedule for streaming, but the page is there and I'll do more test runs when I have non-Precocious traditional media projects to share. Won't draw Precocious on streaming, as I intend to build a buffer and I don't want to spoil future strips. Copper Roads are fair game, though, as they are normally posted the day they are made. I wonder if these streaming places are also good to use just for chatting. Some days it might be fun to just have a chat session with readers. When I'm arting, I obviously can't pay full attention to questions. Streaming announcements will be made on my Twitter feed for now. Once I get it going for real, I'll have a set schedule, with advertising on Precocious' main page.

Back to the piece, I am rather happy with how this one came out. It's quite close to the idea in my head, and I didn't botch any coloring *too* bad. Watercoloring went well, and the touchups I did with colored pencil really helped some parts pop. As someone noticed, Roddy got left out of the mix. Blame the format. While I painted extra stuff on the side/bottom of the piece, the tarot card is tall and thin, which means it took a lot of planning to get as many characters as I did in the active space. Originally, this was my only tarot card contribution, so I felt no pressure to cover all the main cast. When Copper Road got a card, I went back and made it all the Gemstone kids. Sorry, Roddy.

Friday, September 7, 2012


So why was Xander put on a bus? Was I unhappy with his character? Was I looking to shake things up? Is this part of some grand future plan?

Nope. Not really. It's much sillier than that: I don't like his hair.

Xander played a good role in the Precociousverse, but I never did explore it deeply because I didn't find much joy in drawing the guy. He was the last of the original cast to be designed, and I deeply regret not spending more time working on him. I rushed him into a crowd scene early on, and that locked me into his design. (It was a strip that eventually got taken out of the archive, but the damage was done.) I had a loose idea for what I wanted, but my coloring skills were very primitive at the time and I played it too safe. Most of  Xander's colors are cheaply recycled from other characters, and it's pretty lazy to have a character's most defining trait being that his keeps covering up his neck.

While the readers may not mind, *I* mind. I've tweaked my characters' looks slowly as I've gone on, but Xander might need a drastic look change or recoloring to get me comfortable with him. I don't know how I'd fix his look. Never really tried because I knew reader comments over a big look change would be more trouble than it's worth. Instead, I decided to see what would happen if I cut him out.

He's not (necessarily) gone forever. While I don't have any immediate plans for bringing him back, there will be chances for Xander to pop in again. (I'll keep the old design, for continuity's sake.) It's not like he got much time in the spotlight before the chance anyway.

So, yeah. I *like* Xander, and I will miss not being able to use him to his full potential, but let's try something new! No grand plan in in place. (Although I obviously had made up my mind about him months ago.) I'm gonna improvise and see if it works!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September planning!

(First off, be sure to scroll down and show some love to the contributors from Guest Week 3!)

The big event of September will be my appearance at Intervention, in the DC area! I am very excited about this one, as it's my first non-furry con and the geek-friendly vibe should be a lot of fun. Just look at the list of guests and artists! I will have a hard time staying at my table, as lots of cartoonist friends will be around! You readers better make a strong showing too, as I'll have the usual Precocious stuff to sell. Come chat with me as I draw your commission, or sketch in your book, at the table! (Also, if you *want* to see me at a furry con, come November I'll be tabling at Midwest Furfest in Chicago.)

As for the rest of September? We. Shall. See. The move taking three extra weeks, and all the stress that came with that, zonked my schedule, so I've decided to go free and easy during the month and save the big projects for October. Doesn't mean I'm not doing stuff, though!  Commissions are technically open, so feel free to email me if you have something in mind. I'll also likely be doing more freebie stuff like the portraits. (Yes, I still have to finish and post the last portrait page. It'll happen!) Make sure you follow my Twitter account, as that's where I first do giveaways when I feel whimsical. Things might not happen until I've rebuilt a Precocious buffer, but when I'm confident with that, it'll get magical!

Oh, and if you didn't see it earlier, I'm also contributing to The Webcomics Tarot Project this month. The piece for Copper Road is already up, with an epic Precocious card coming soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A big 'ol thank you!

My (hellish) move is complete! While I am so tired and the buffer is gone, I now have the means to make comics, so make comics I shall! Precocious is back, and ready to rock your world!

I finished today's comic only a few hours before update time, so if not for the help of all the guest artists, Precocious would have been in much trouble. Let's give them some love!

Featured guest cartoonists: Ahmed Fahim of Silent Pirate, Jackie Wolenhaus of Between Failures, Ms. Dark, Lemmo, of Blank It, The amazing Heidi Black, Michelle Van Zandt of Ginpu, Artistjess and Carl Sjostrand, of Ginger's Bread!

Incentive artists: Jordyn Jensen, Lucy Lyall of Spare Keys for Strange Doors, Precocious' colorist DRB_II!, Iron Ed, Jeremy and his sister, Erick Amill of Biff the Vampire and...

We have one last incentive! Heidi Black created this bonus art to compliment her comic, but a scheduling conflict meant it didn't go up on her update day. Vote, and enjoy it now!

(FYI: When the next vote incentive goes up, all guest art will be collected in a sketch blog post.)


I'm just gonna tell my story, with no care in how whiny it is, or if it's entertaining at all. This is venting. Deal with it.

If you've been reading along, you know my move from Savannah to Virginia has been a mess. My original move was ruined when the buddy who had agreed to help me instead disappeared. (He's back now, and working to rectify the situation.) That meant I had to leave my apartment - and, most importantly, my studio equipment - in Savannah, while I drove to VA.

This past weekend was my only opportunity to get it back.  Labor Day traffic be damned, I set off for Savannah with the dude who lives in my basement (Mover2) and a goal of finally ending that chapter of my life.

The trip didn't start well. Even with Mover2 getting off work a bit early, we had to drive in Friday evening, holiday traffic. Griping ensued. At least it gave us some conversation topics. (You're note that Mover2 is not referred to as a "buddy.") We ate a Bojangles for the first time. It was weird, and the food was not worth the wait. You suck, Bojangles. We did have lots of friendly convos with good ol' country boys while waiting for the food, though.

We got in at 11:30, and took a walk around town before bed. Mover2 gave me a running commentary of how he would like to violate every woman he saw, so that was nice. Bedtime. We had to get up at 7 to retrieve our truck from Budget.

The next morning, we were optimistic. We heading over to Budget when it opened to see if we could get the truck early.  In the lot outside the Budget office, we saw a guy angrily screaming at his phone. Uh oh.

Dude behind the Budget counter took me name, typed it in, stared at the computer and shook his head. "We don't have your truck."


I had the email. I had the conformation number. I had the right location. Dude told me there was no record of me. He gave me a number to call.  The number told me, through a recording, (paraphrased) "the in-store representative you were working with will handle it," and hung up on me. I went back inside. The dude didn't even look at me. He sat at the counter, slowly filing papers, hoping I would go away. Mover2 lost his cool and started shouting loud enough that we couldn't be ignored. Counter dude, never changing his expressions, said there was nothing he could do.

That's when the chick beside him actually looked up our information, and told us my reservation WAS there, but it had been CANCELLED.  The heck? Zombie counter dude shrugged, and said the company overbooked, so they just cancelled a bunch of reservations. Didn't I get a call or message about it? NO. No I did not.

So now we had no truck and panic was setting in. We found a nearby location for Uhaul and went to them. The difference between the two companies was night and day.  The Uhaul staff was smart, informed, engaging and very helpful.  Problem is, we weren't the only people screwed over by Budget.  At 8:30am, we were the third crew to come begging, and any spare trucks were gone.  (Mover2 swears the angry guy from the Budget lot got the last one, but I have no visual confirmation.) We got an 800 number to call, and not only did a real person immediately pick up, but he made an effort to search the area for any spare truck they had. He found two, one at the size we needed!  But there was no guarantee yet. These trucks were owned by independent companies, so confirmation was needed. I was told it would take an hour.

I went to get Mover2, who was ranting at everyone about Budget, and we asked the Uhaul manager for advice. She kindly suggested we leave (someone might have been making a scene) and get breakfast while we waited. Her suggestions: IHOP and Golden Corral. Oh, Georgia.

IHOP *was* close, so we went there. The staff was very nice and attentive. The food was IHOP. We picked at our hash browns when the phone rang. We had a truck! It was a much-larger truck than needed, BUT IT WAS A TRUCK! Only problem was that it was 40 minutes away.  Well, not much we could do there. I thanked the Uhaul person, wrote down the information, and called the confirmation number on the subsequent text message Uhaul sent me. (A great feature, by the way.)

The truck owner answered the call, and was completely baffled. In the time it took for my reservation to be processed and move through the system, someone had come into their office and rented the truck. My notification came in during our conversation, and there was nothing I could do about the double booking.  The owner told me he was renting it out for the day, so we could stop by at 5pm and pick it up for our trip.  We obviously weren't thrilled with that, but we told him to keep my name on the book.  If that was the only option, we were taking it.

Back to Uhaul's office! The manager was still lovely, took down my information and said she'd call if there were any cancellations. Nothing left to do, we hopped in the car to drive back to my apartment.

The phone rings.  "Hey, this is Budget. Are you ever gonna pick up your truck?"


"Your truck was transferred to the Richmond Hill location. Didn't someone tell you about it?"

No. No that was definitely not what we were told.  Good lord. I begged the guy to hold onto the truck, promising we'd be there as soon as possible. Swung by the apartment to grab the GPS, typed in the address and we were on our way.  Turns out it's a half-hour away, BUT WHO CARES WE HAD A TRUCK.

This was new Budget center, stuck at the edge of an impound lot at the back of the field and only a tiny, barely visible sign to point out it existed. It was surrounded by puddles of stagnant water, and thus full of swarms of hungry insects. The office was a run-down shack with some very questionable choices with the electronics. (Dripping AC unit above the power strip? What could go wrong?)

The manager wanted to hurry up the checkout, as he ate something that didn't agree with him and he was about to be sick.  That was the computer system's cue to start throwing out error messages. Over and over. He would click. Computer would throw a fit. He would say he's about to vomit. I slid the trash can over to him and asked him to keep going.

After a long call with Budget tech support, the reservation went through.  I finally paid, and the manager sprinted off to vomit. We got the truck inspected and FINALLY got to drive it off.  Over 5 hours had passed since our scheduled pick-up time.  We were frustrated, angry and ready to drive back to the first Budget center and punch zombie dude in his expressionless face.

Let me make this clear:  While we ended up using Budget, it will never happen again. Uhaul costs more, but they are reliable, helpful and competent. I will always take that over that day of hell. Budget had a failure at every step, from the office people, to the computer system to a useless help network. (Which I had also dealt with during the LAST move, but I didn't know if Budget had failed then, or original moving buddy.)

Those five hours lost were brutal, though, as it meant we *had* to stay another night in Savannah. I like Savannah, but all my friends were out of town and I had a loud, whiny sleazeball I had to take everywhere. We loaded the truck much faster than I'd have preferred, so we had a full evening to kill. At least we agreed to leave well before sunrise in the morning. Early bed = less conversational pain! My twitter follows know a lot more about what I'm implying here. Basically, don't ask that dude about his views on women.

We had a great dinner, followed by a long and excruciating walk.  Let me be clear: I adore walking around Savannah. Aside from my friends, it's what I will miss the most. What I don't like is the horrific running commentary I got.

Next morning we woke up real early, loaded the last of the stuff into my car, dropped off the apartment keys and left. The drive was smooth and uneventual. The arrival was move fun from Mover2, who ranted to me about how evil Budget was for restricting their trucks to a 75mph top speed.  Yes, dude, rant to me about not being able to drive recklessly with a truck full of MY STUFF. We knew going into this that he would be a pain, but I was desperate and he owes my family an irreparable debt. Sometimes you have to go with the due who can't say no, even though everything else he says will be awful.

Forgive the griping, but I felt the need to share. I left out a lot of details, such as discovering the gas station store was also the main liquor store of the area, and the 1970's New York locksmith experience, but I'm tired and this is long enough.

The happy ending is that I'm typing this in my newly set up studio, and it's kinda awesome! (For now... I see wifi issues on the horizon, but I'm gonna rely on the cable box and ignore that.)

I now turn back to drawing tomorrow's comic. First new comic drawn in a while. WILL I REMEMBER WHAT EVERYONE LOOKS LIKE?