Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #156 (February 14th, 2007)

And there's a spelling mistake on the cover!

Dave Sim Collected Letters vol.2.

I have to thank Matt Dow for pointing that out because I didn't

Notice it myself at all.

Not only is he running these "interrupted in

the middle" excerpts, the book itself has a

spelling mistake right there on the $%#@

What was interesting was that this was also my first month running Aardvark-Vanaheim completely on my own with Ger's decision to leave the company at the end of 2006. I suspect that might have been part of God's point: even with my diminished capacity where I had to plan one or two half hour stints per day a day ahead of time just getting the basics done—bills still had to get paid, invoices had to be sent out, the mail still needed to be picked up—I was able to run Aardvark-Vanaheim even though I was flat on my back for the better part of a month. I shepherded the first printing of a Cerebus trade paperback anywhere outside of Preney Print & Litho. A FedEx package came in containing three copies of the fourth printing of Form & Void from Lebonfon in Montreal—and they did an excellent job! The mail piled up. I'd take a cab to the post office and back once a week (I'm putting on my coat and the scarf Linda Parker knitted me. I'm standing in the doorway waiting for the cab. I WILL remain vertical and I WILL walk out to the cab and get in when it gets here) and just pull out the cheques and the bills that needed to be dealt with. Mid-month was about the worst: it actually took me the better part of an hour to write four cheques, put them in envelopes and put postage on them. Mid-month I'd get the newspaper in the morning and force myself to read the headlines on the front page until I understood what they said. Then I'd flip through the front section in about ten seconds and go back to bed where I would lie awake repeating my prayer over and over and having these weird eight to ten minute naps every two hours or so.

Finally, whatever the mystery ailment was was…well, not gone, but no longer had a stranglehold on me…and about two o'clock one morning in the third week, I went upstairs and started tracing the Jaka figure for the commissioned piece. What an adventure that turned out to be. I had to do everything at least eight times before it was even remotely close to what I intended. "It's a picture of Jaka, Dave. You can draw Jaka in your sleep." Maybe so, but this morning? Not so much.

It was interesting because by that point I had such a clear mental image of what the piece was supposed to look like that it became hard to tell if I was doing everything eight times because I was still sick and incompetent or if I was doing everything eight times because I wasn't going to rest until this picture looked exactly the way it did in my mind's eye. I had done the "Vark Wars" lettering in a double outline, as an example, and intended to colour between the two lines. As I looked at it, though, I could see that the space for the outline was off about a sixteenth of an inch. It needed to be a little bit wider. Not too wide. I didn't want the lettering to be the first thing you saw. I wanted the first impression to be of a nice Al Williamson splash panel. Only once that had registered did I want the viewer to see the "Vark Wars" lettering. I don't know how long it actually took me to expand that outline by a sixteenth of an inch, but it definitely took a while. Then I filled in all of the areas where the space backdrop would show through with brushed in solid black—as close to the pencil lines as I could get—and then filled in the remaining spaces with a Hunt 102 instead of a rapidograph. Using a Hunt 102 to fill in solid blacks. Only a very sick and/or very obsessive person could come up with something like that and stick with it, but I wanted every straight edge as straight as an arrow. My inner Al Williamson was watching closely. I wanted every corner as sharp as I could get it, coming to a precise point with no extraneous line intruding or extending beyond where it was supposed to be. I was also determined not to have to white anything out. I was aiming for an Al Williamson level of accuracy and precision and I can't think of a higher level of accuracy and precision than that. I forget how long that took. I also made the choice to not outline the Vark Wars lettering in black which added a whole other level of precision to the inking stage. I forget how long that took. I remember it took the better part of a day to colour Jaka's fleshtones, adding layer upon layer of light orange, pink, pink and yellow blended, building it up and building it up. Bright! Brighter! Brightest! Al Williamson Bright! After a month you forget how good it feels to be actually drawing and to have the picture coming out right how it would colour your entire day so you didn't even think about strokes and brain tumours. I'd just sit and look at it while I was getting my shoes on (which meant I had plenty of time: putting on my shoes took a while) or waiting for a cab or getting ready to actually walk downtown on one of my "half-hour of health" sojourns. Looking at all the sharp lines, looking at that bright colour of Jaka's fleshtone and the pretty close match on the slave girl skirt colour.

"Don't screw it up, now" I'd think, looking at everything else that needed to be done.

John had asked when I wanted to get paid and I told him to send a cheque. The cheque came in Monday and at that point there was a sense of obligation. Nothing worse than getting paid for a piece and to have it sitting there three quarters done. What if I have a relapse? So I spent most of Monday working on it. I mean, literally most of Monday. I woke up almost exactly at midnight with the Sabbath over and I went out and sat down and worked on it, inch by painstaking inch from midnight to roughly three-thirty when the newspaper arrived which I was finally able to read from front to back while resting in bed. Apart from picking up the mail, I had nothing planned for my "half hours of health" on Monday, so I alternated resting in bed (and actually sleeping for a change!) with each inch by painstaking inch of the picture. And then, unbelievably, twenty-two hours later it was done. And apart from a few minor glitches, it was about as precise and accurate a piece of work as I've ever done.

In fact, I'm so pleased with it, that I decided to make it this year's Thanks for Showing Up Print at SPACE in Columbus, Ohio (i.e. it will only be available at the show). I'm getting 50 high quality cardstock colour photocopies done of it and I'm going to sign and number them and sell them exclusively at SPACE for $20 each. Except the #1 out of 50 which I'm going to auction on eBay. If I have any of them left over, I'll sell the remainder at Torontocon.

Just called and told John Higashi that his commission is done and chatted with him a bit about his art collection. Has he gotten a lot of these Star Wars commissions done? Turns out he's been collecting them since 2000 and at this point he has (get this) SIX HUNDRED individual Star Wars pieces that he's commissioned. You think I'm kidding? Click on and then type in "higashi" and he tells me that you can see just about all of them. Since I know most of the Cerebus Yahoos are raving Star Wars fans as well, I figured I better mention it.

It's a funny thing about drawing. It exists in a world all its own. Out of the six thousand pages of Cerebus, I can tell you what was happening in my life on the day I drew the page with maybe a half dozen of them. If that.

I wonder if that will be true of the Sickbed Star Wars Commission? Probably not, now that I've told the whole story here. But I've forgotten other pages that I thought I would always associate with specific events.

And, at one point in the depths of my feverishness I thought, "Lord Julius as a WOOKIE!" Now I'm never going to my final rest in peace until I get THAT one out of my system.

Okay, so here I am approximately a month late on my commissioned drawings. James S. of New Jersey has been patiently waiting to see if he's going to get his own version of "Cerebus standing on top of a pile of dead super-heroes" ("Bonfire of the Super-Heroes Revisited" I guess we'll call this one) with Cerebus thinking to himself "That was a lot easier than Cerebus thought" which, ordinarily, I would have had done by now, so we're going to give James a lock on the End of February. That means the next available slot is the End of March and according to what I've got here, so far Katrina has the highest offer with $850 for a recreation of the Flight trade paperback cover. If you want to offer more than that for your own commissioned piece, give me a call at 519.576.0610. If I'm not here, leave a message and a phone number where I can reach you to let you know where you stand on the bidding up to the March 15 deadline.

Tomorrow: Okay, let's open some of these letters that have been cascading down the front stairs for the last three weeks or so and see what jumps out at us.

There's MORE for you!

In TODAY's Blog & Mail


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.