Visual Storytelling

I’ve been taking Visual Storytelling classes, taught by Jim Higgins, at Pop Secret Gallery and Meltdown Comics and I thought I’d share my collection from the first class I took. It was a six-week course and the final project was a 3-page comic. I collected them all into a booklet (found below). It’s definitely a different style of art than I’m used to but I’m looking forward to exploring it further. If you’re interested in watching my unending struggle with perspective and proportion (wait, where is that arm connected?) you can follow me on Instagram for short periodic bouts of entertainment.

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On Why Fandom is Important

I’ve been on the outskirts of a lot of fandoms. I’ve watched a lot of shows that have some seriously dedicated fan bases and have even participated a bit in a few. The fandoms vary a lot depending on the format of the show (obviously) but they all have one thing in common: passion. I know all of this is nothing new to most people. We all know how important these communities are and (if you’ll pardon the PR speak) how a few key influencers can be tapped to build an intense, interactive following.

All of that being said I’ve been around the fandom block and I’ve noticed some key differences in how they’re cultivated, some worse than others. In light of last night’s Arrow episode (no spoilers, no worries) there was a lot of expected divisiveness. Being a widely watched popular CW show brings a varied fan base that skews a bit younger it’s to be expected. They don’t pull their punches with the content and I appreciate that but the show runners aren’t exactly the best example when it comes to their social media presence.

They’ve got a large group of fans with very passionate yet, disparate ideas and yet they meet a lot of criticism with disdain. That breeds ill feeling and it spreads quickly. They’ve had this unchecked battle of Felicity versus Laurel fans for a few years and instead of encouraging fans to stop pitting women against each other they’ve let it run rampant even going so far as to make snide comments at fans that articulate an impassioned opinion. If you’ve got a fan base this passionate there’s so much you can do with that. There are a lot of ways to coach them through an event like last night’s episode and they have really seemed to fail by all accounts.

There are a lot of fans like me who live-tweet, engage social occasionally, make fan art and generally promote the show. I’ve gotten a lot of people to watch Arrow but I always warn them against engaging online and the fact that I have to do that is a real detriment to the show. I don’t like having to say that the fans are generally pretty mean and show creators (Marc Guggenheim specifically) that I like can be very callous and reactionary. I understand not wanting the small segment of online engagement to dictate the direction of the show but outright ignoring your biggest supporters and responding to their anger with flippancy is a great way to alienate your best advocates. And I’m saying this as someone who really likes the direction last night’s episode is taking the show.

As an example of good management I’ll point to Syfy’s Haven community. The audience is much smaller and skews a little older but they’ve had some serious, controversial episodes and they have dealt with their fans beautifully. The actors, writers and creators all made great efforts to engage with their fans and commiserate with them over certain plot points. They managed to explain their decisions without derision and would admit if they made choices they were unhappy with in the end. They were accessible, relatable and a lot less precious about their vision and it really helped to build a supportive fan base.

Fandom is important. Whether you’re creating a show, writing novels or selling cars. Managing your community is an extremely important part of the process and one where I’m seeing networks, like the CW failing exceedingly. Without the fans there’s no one to submit artwork or take your polls. They’re the ones you’re creating for so treating them like unruly children rather than the driving force behind your success will always be a very poor choice.

EDIT: I’d like to clarify that I think the CW social team handling the backlash from last night’s episode did a pretty good job of explaining their viewpoint and managing fans. I think it was a great episode and a good choice. The only problem I have is that, in my opinion, the fan community hasn’t been cultivated well over the past four years and can be extremely nasty. I think this is a sign of poor management overall. It could honestly be any number of factors and I’m needlessly throwing some blame on the social media team but I’ve seen a few of the show runners make some snappish comments to fans that irritate them and when you’re handling something that people are this passionate about you just can’t react that way. It’s rude to the fans who dedicate so much time and money into supporting you. Your intended target isn’t the only audience on Twitter. Ok, I digress, Arrow’s a great show, you should watch it and avoid the online audience like the plague. And be the change you wish to see in social media.

 

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That Freelance Kind of Life

What kind of designer would I be if I didn’t have more than one day job? Outside of my work at Edelman I also freelance for Design Studio Press. DSP is a fantastic concept art book publisher and a freelancer’s dream client. I recieved my first batch of printed work and it’s a really cool feeling to see a hard copy version of something I worked very hard on. Most of my work has been cleaning up books and readying them for press but I’ve been lucky enough to give a few my own design flair.

If you’re interested in seeing some truly amazing concept art from some of the best concept artists then check out these and other titles from Design Studio Press!

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Nuthin’ But Mech 3

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SOON Timepiece Phenomena by Olivier Gamiette

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Heaven’s Hell: The Art of Anthony Jones

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Woosh! by Lorin Wood

 

BSL Back in the ‘Burg (Or how we elect idiots who like to kill perfectly nice dogs for no reason)

Yesterday, a panel in Reynoldsburg, Ohio decided it knew better than the state legislature and re-enacted their archaic BSL laws.

This decision in Reynoldsburg would be comical were it not so sad. Ohio has decided, based on research done by experts, advocates and researchers that Breed Specific Legislation does not work and devised a comprehensive and impressive system that is more effective at protecting the public from dangerous dogs. Reynoldsburg has decided that their collection of anecdotal evidence and fear in the face overwhelming evidence to the contrary is more accurate and therefore more important than this heavily researched statewide law. It’s honestly quite impressive to see such blatant ignorance in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

To put it in perspective it would be like saying that all guns are dangerous and then only banning the .45 Smith & Wesson revolver. All other .45 revolvers have the potential to be just as dangerous yet they aren’t covered by the ban. They are equally likely to be used in a crime when obtained by a criminal yet the Smith & Wesson has been singled out despite no evidence that it is any more deadly than any of the other revolvers. If the Smith & Wesson unavailable the criminals will just move on to using a different make of .45 revolver.

Every single major research group has said that BSL doesn’t work.The Humane Society, The American Bar Association, The National Canine Research Council (just to name a few) have thoroughly researched this issue and concluded that it is not only ineffective but also detrimental to the community. This information is free, open to the public and comes complete with citations so that anyone can review the conclusions. This panel in Reynoldsburg is essentially saying that they’re personal bias and the uneducated bias of the community holds more weight than all of these groups who have put money and time into actually researching and testing BSL.

And the worst part is that they are claiming to be voting with the community. Our founding father’s set up this system so that the general, uneducated public (be they illiterate or uninterested) would have someone whose job is to educate themselves on the issue and govern on their constituents behalf. This panel was obviously just pandering to garner votes and not voting for the best interest of the community. It’s pathetic and I’m unbelievably glad I don’t live there anymore. They should be ashamed.

If you are genuinely interested in learning about this issue before making an informed decision please check out Measle’s Animal Haven, a pit bull rescue group in Columbus that has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for those interested in learning about pit bulls and BSL. Or, spend some time researching actual facts and statistics and make an informed decision on your own rather than condemning sixty percent of shelter dogs and family pets to death because you read a story about a kid being mauled by what the newspaper speculated was a pit bull that one time.

http://www.measlesanimalhaven.org/BreedSpecificLegislation.htm http://www.measlesanimalhaven.org/ResponsibleOwnership.htm The Humane Society: http://www.humanesociety.org/…/breed-specific… The American Bar Association: http://www.mspca.org/…/american-bar-association… Cornell University: http://blogs.cornell.edu/…/the-five-ws-of-breed…/ The fact that Pitbulls match Labs and Goldens in temperament testing:http://animaladvocatesalliance.org/pitbulls-score-better…/

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Holding Satire Accountable

I genuinely hate arguing with people, especially on the internet. Debating is fun, witty repartee is excellent but once we hit the insult, argue just to argue territory, I am out. I am passionate about things which makes me terrible in battle and worse in the cleanup. So, when I post something, even slightly polarizing on the internet my life is ruined for at least a day until I can crawl out of my blanket fort, conveniently located in my anxiety prison. (Trust me, I know. I’m working on it.)

Obviously dogs, pitbulls specifically, are very important to me. I did shelter photography for two years and helped with a transport group. I’ve seen first hand what happens when you have overbreeding combined with miseducation. It’s not pretty and it leads to a lot of needless torture and death. I take it seriously because as a human it’s my responsibility to protect living things that can’t help themselves. Whatever our life experiences are we need to take a step back and try to wade through the misinformation to find the truth and find better ways to protect ourselves and each other. The biggest challenge (in any social issue) is misinformation.

Misinformation and a lack of education are the things keep undermining progress. We work hard to change minds gradually only to find ourselves undermined by inaccuracy posed in a more understandable light. “Their message is simpler. I get it now, don’t need to think anymore.” It’s soundbite culture at it’s finest. They hear something and move on. Trying to fight that is an uphill battle. Our headlines are so much less interesting. Happy things just aren’t entertaining enough. That’s when the humor comes in. After all, you can’t go wrong with humor, right?

It’s funny to me how farce is regarded right now. It’s a fine line to walk between parody and misinformation. The unfortunate downside to parody is the large amount of people who misinterpret it as fact. See a picture, read a headline, it must be truth! And then it becomes an endless game of telephone. That doesn’t mean that the humor should be banned or disregarded, just that the person making the jokes accept some responsibility for timing and clarity. Sure, things are funnier when they don’t need to be explained but when something is taken out of context in an international forum, even a joke, it can have long reaching impact.

It’s important to be cognizant of all of the people you may be undermining with an ill-timed joke. The best and worst thing about comedy is that it has it’s roots in truth. If you find something particularly hilarious you already have some form of connection to it. If you make a joke about a vicious pit bull you are perpetuating all of the misconceptions that people have niggling in the back of their brains. They don’t know when or where they heard it or saw it but they did and little by little the blocks start stacking back up. Your bit of fun stacked another couple of blocks in a few thousand brains and the dogs, shelters, volunteers, etc. are the ones who pay for it.

I love that the Onion wants us to realize how ridiculous and inaccurate that stereotype is. I just don’t think that the unfortunate negative ramifications of their platform and reach are worth it.

Emotional Brain vs. Logic Brain (Or why I just want a damn happy ending.)

If you’re following me you may have realized that my most recent TV obsession is The Mindy Project. (Don’t lament, my dearest Haven and Parks and Rec, I am still marathoning you often.) I love going through phases where I take in a show and let it distract me from life things until my natural hermiting habits have taken their course and I once again join the daywalkers.

Today though, I was reading through overanalyzing tv’s blog and reading some quotes from Mindy Kaling about the show. I had to resist the urge to go on my usual rant about how entertainment creatives always seem to have this idea that they can’t sacrifice their creative integrity just to placate the audience. This is something that has always devastated me as a member of that very audience.

As an entertainer, once that work has aired, once it has a following, your work belongs to the audience. It’s not just your baby anymore. We are tuning in once a week, every week for an hour/half hour of our lives to emotionally invest in the characters and stories you create. For some of us that’s more time than we spend with some of our friends and family members. Lately, I’ve had a really hard time with this. I just moved to a new city and while I am by no means an actual hermit, I still find myself alone for long periods of time. My family and friends are mostly 2,000 miles away and while I have friends here I am still not settled. These shows fill a bit of that void.

Giving to Netflix shows that have been on a while or that have finished a chance isn’t hard. You know from the get-go what you’re getting into and have some idea of the resolution. When Lost was on I watched it when it aired for almost three years. That is, until I couldn’t take the stress anymore. I had to emotionally prepare to feel devastated every week and I just couldn’t continue to do that to myself. That’s why I chose to forgo quite a few phenomenal shows like Battlestar Galactica and The Walking Dead. I know I will like them but I didn’t want to face the heartbreak that comes with investing emotionally in a show every single week.

The Mindy Project is obviously different. The comedy is spot on, the intelligence and relatability always make it worth coming back for but, let’s face it, I’m a shipper. The Mindy/Danny relationship fills my ‘When Harry Met Sally’ heart with joy and I never want that to end. Alas, though, the beautifully hilarious and creative mind of Kaling has made me question how long I’ll keep going. The idea she has referenced of them amicably parting in the end is both wonderful and tragically realistic. I refer back to my argument that television is for the fans and the last thing I want to do is confront reality when I’m watching a thirty minute comedy. That is by no means implying that comedy can’t be poignant or sad, just that I will always want to leave a little happier than I arrived.

This is what led me to confront something about myself that—at twenty five—I was unprepared to confront. Firstly, I am far too invested in the media I consume. I am still wrecked a little bit from reading ‘The Hunger Games’ and I read that two years ago. Second, and more importantly, I can’t face the idea that things just end. As a logical, fully grown woman I completely understand that all things run their course. Your relationships, your jobs and even your dreams grow and change, usually into something that you weren’t expecting or prepared for. It’s not final like death. It’s just a change that happens over time. I have outgrown friends and situations and have only been the better for it. That idea though, that romantic love as we know it and understand it is really just the fluid thing that changes the same way our love for our childhood friends will is both comforting and painfully sad.

I’ve always hated rom-coms and yet my child brain somehow adopted this idea that soulmate love actually exists. My logic brain has always insisted that it doesn’t and rather than coming up with some sort of compromise I just quit thinking about it. What better way to avoid intimacy than by just putting off thinking about it, am I right? I haven’t had a lot of great examples of romantic relationships in my life. Personally, I’ve never been in one and the ones I’ve witnessed have usually ended badly or didn’t make much sense to the onlooker. I’ve seen a few that I have some hope for but in the end I know most will just run their course. I guess finally confronting it is just my way of acquiescing to getting older. But, now that I’m facing it in reality, must I also face it in the place that I go to escape reality?

As a creative brain I totally get the concept of doing something different and interpreting life on screen. As a creative who also wants a holodeck so that I can escape reality entirely, roll myself up in a cocoon of arrested development and exist in a world that I have complete control over I would prefer the less realistic, sappy outcome. So, I guess there’s a couple of choices: break the tropes, change the culture and make a creative statement that soulfully captures the bittersweet melancholia of life or suspend disbelief for a little while longer and enjoy this fictional idea that sometimes people grow together rather than apart.

I don’t know about you but I really just want a damn happy ending.

Oh, and watch The Mindy Project. It may have caused an existential crisis for me but sane people can watch it and enjoy the hilarity that comes from top notch writing.

How ‘New Girl’ Let Me Down

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Photo Source: The Amherst Student

Disclaimer: I won’t pretend that I’m an authority on feminism. I am not trained in socially conscious language and I am often being educated by my more socially involved friends. What I am an authority on is my own personal life experiences as a woman and a geek and that is the place that I am coming from.

That being said, ‘New Girl’ has become such a disappointment for me.

When the show started I was so excited to see a more accurate portrayal of female geeks. Not only that, but the female geek was the lead character. The first episode alone had three references to LOTR and an abundance of crafting jokes. Obviously, she didn’t represent geeky women as a whole. She was a representation of one type of woman in the world and whether you liked that representation or not I personally identified with a lot of her character traits.

It was in the middle of the first season when I started to really notice a change. Jess wasn’t really geeky anymore. She was klutzy and weird but the pop culture references had stopped. She liked knitting, making jam and making up weird songs. To me those are just common interests with nothing inherently geeky about them. Soon she swapped roles with the men. She was no longer the socially clueless woman who was watched over by her dysfunctional roommates. She became the mother figure, constantly trying to wrangle three rowdy, idiot boys. She still does weird things but they aren’t geeky. Just weird. She became what every female character on TV becomes: the mom.

This trope is insulting to both men and women alike. We are almost all in the same place in our mid-twenties and early thirties. We are trying to find our place in there world, figuring out who we are and what we stand for. Shows like this turn men into bumbling idiots who need the women in their lives to guide them through every obstacle with a wink and a sigh of defeat.

In the third season they did the one thing that always kills a show for me. They made one of the characters, Schmidt, into a cheater. As if his cheating weren’t bad enough he was also really terrible at it. The writers tried so hard to make him empathetic despite the cheating because ‘he is too dumb to know better’ or ‘his friend wasn’t there to guide him’ and all of that is total, utter bullishit. Now we are back to every other stupid, insipid television trope where men are stupid and we should feel bad for them and women are there to solve all of their problems.

This is coming from a show that had so much promise. The cast ranges in income, race and background. (I’ll talk about how much I love Cece in another blog update that I have planned.) The comedy is often spot on and the actors are all extremely talented. Winston is one of my all time favorite characters and the reason I still watch the show at all. In the end though, Jess is no longer the amazing character that she once was and I find that every time I watch an episode that she doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as she once did.

I miss you, Jessica Day. Maybe some day the world will be ready to watch you are you were originally intended. For now I’ll stick to Youtube scripted series like Squaresville and The Guild for some genuinely cool female geeks.

Want to watch and identify with actual geeky women? Here are some geeky feminists you should be following:

Stand-up comedian @NadiaKamil who has a feminist burlesque dance and a pap smear rap that are not to be missed.

Emily V. Gordon @thegynomite who co-hosts a video game podcast and her Tumblr provides positive body image advice.

Sandra Daugherty (@SexNerdSandra) offers sex-positive advice on her podcast Sex Nerd Sandra.

Mindy Kaling (@MindyKaling) WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING ‘THE MINDY PROJECT’!?!

And last, but definitely not least, Yvette Nicole Brown (@YvetteNBrown) of Community fame (who is from Cleveland, near where I grew up) and is frequently on The Talking Dead.

I could go on and on with this list and I would be more than happy to upon request. Fear not friends, our female geeky idols are out there! We just need to spread the word!