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Conventional Wisdom

Local illustrators talk about this weekend's Cincinnati Comic Expo

By Rich Shivener · September 14th, 2010 · Visual Art
Comic book conventions empower creators, helping them fly above the seemingly countless submissions flooding the comics industry.

These are some boiled-down comments from locals Woodrow J. Hinton III and Josh Blair, both appearing this weekend at the Cincinnati Comic Expo. Hinton's work ranges from graphic novel covers to fantasy and sci-fi artwork for role-playing games, while Blair's credits include Candy or Medicine, a quarterly mini-comic anthology featuring national and international writers and artists (from Japan, Greece, Brazil, New Zealand, etc.).

CityBeat checked in with both creators.

CityBeat: Josh, can you give us a sneak peek of the upcoming Candy or Medicine issue?
Josh Blair
: What Candy or Medicine prides itself on is including a diverse set of creators, and this next issue certainly has that. Styles of art, people from different counties, different regions — it's a variety. Some stuff in there is pretty cartoony, some stuff in there is a little avant-garde; stuff that's a little more realistic, humor stuff, some stuff that's just bizarre. And I always try to include new people as well.

CB: What's the craziest submission you've received?
: There is a guy named Alex Chiu. His stuff is crazy in an endearing way. It has this West Coast, Japanese vibe to it, some really bizarre stuff, and I love it. Tyler Stafford is another West Coast guy. He has this science fiction, underground twist on comics. Those are some more abstract comics.

CB: Woodrow, talk us through your creative process. Has the digital age influenced it?
Woodrow J. Hinton III:
I used to paint everything by hand, full color value range … and to be honest, my value suffered for it. My process is this: Right now I do mixed media, black-and-white paintings commercially, and then I digitally color them in Photoshop. The main reason I switched wasn't because of time — because I'm spending the same amount of time — but because it allows me to be flexible with editors.

I still remember the first job I did for a role-playing game — I had to paint demons coming out of a porthole and there were succubi on the floor.

Long story short, I painted the whole thing in acrylic. I thought it was beautiful and I loved the palette I came up with, but (the editor) said, “I basically want you to make this (part) red.” So I had to take one night and repaint the whole thing. I had to cover the whole thing up with what I thought was an inferior palette.

The computer lets me be a little more analytical, a little more thoughtful about my choices, and it also gives me the freedom of “the undo.” That's the greatest thing about the computer — Command-Z. I'm not one of those guys that will tell you, “I don't use undo.” If I want to see what a palette looks like, I'll see and then I'll change it.

CB: What's your take on comic conventions and expos?
: It's two fold. It creates a sense of community. Shows bring everybody from an entire region to one place for a day or a weekend. The fans can go there and see what's out there that they might not have seen before, especially local guys, and maybe that's inspiration for them.

For the creators, I think a benefit is that it creates a community among them; they get together and keep tabs on what everyone's doing. Two of the best shows I've been two are Ithacon in New York and S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus. What's really cool about Ithacon is the group of guys that get together every year. They know each other well, but they only see each other once a year.

WH: As far as conventions in general, I think they're essential for students and artists. Growing up and trying to figure this out on my own, I came from the last age of the studio system artists, who would train under an artist — some kind of in-house artist or a mentor — or get picked up by a rep, and you would put your work in these workbook annuals and art directors would get these ridiculously large tomes full of illustrators. And you would hope that whatever you put on the tear sheet was good enough to make you stand out. The advent of technology kind of blew all of that out of the water — not to mention the advent of stock photography and stock illustrations.

As things get more impersonal — in the age of art directors getting thousands of submissions through mail and email a day — artists and illustrators must consider, “How can I promote myself so I'm not just a number in this massive pile?” Conventions are the answer to that. I don't care if you're a plumber, a businessman, sell knives, sell doilies … I guarantee you there is a convention out there. These conventions are crucial.

CB: So what’s your take on the local scene?
: I'd say it's really discombobulated. I think that's why the Expo is important: It's a place everyone can come together at least for a day. Honestly, some of us will realize that there are a lot of people in Cincinnati making comics or doing art. A lot of people, like me, aren't well known or a big name, and most of the local people aren't big names, so it allows fans to discover them. It's good to know that there are more people in your area making comics. It's inspiring.

WH: One thing that has always amazed me about Cincinnati is the wealth of artistic talent here, in all the arts, but particularly in the illustration community. Whether it’s the vast array of quality education institutions or something in the water, we got talent by the boatload.

However, I will say this in terms of geography and technology: Cincinnati is very limited in terms of what we publish in this region and who buys art. If you have the notion that the days of moving to the big city to make it are obsolete because of computing and networking technologies, I would ask you to re-evaluate. While the amount of talented artists that call Cincinnati their home would suggest otherwise, I see a re-emergence of the “scenes” in the various artistic circles.

CINCINNATI COMIC EXPO is Saturday at Xavier University's Cintas Center. Get details at www.cincinnaticomicexpo.com.



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