Where I dive into covers, art & jazz collide, and a continued look back...
I want to thank everyone who wrote me in response to my last newsletter, sharing touching stories of their parents and the difficult times they endured as they grew old. It shook me a bit — the compassion with which everyone wrote. I apologize for not responding directly to everyone, as there were a lot of emails — and I was a bit overwhelmed. Please know that all emails were read and appreciated. Truly, thank you.
FINE TUNING / in more ways than one
I grew up the son of a mechanic and a nurse. Many days were spent hanging in garages, construction sites, or hospitals as my parents worked. While the scent of oil and grease trigger a pleasant sense of nostalgia, the sanitized chemical odours of hospitals turn my nose. Clearly, I had an affinity for one place over the other.
As a teen I would still help my dad from time to time in the garage - sometimes enjoying the endeavours, other times hating them as I yearned to be out with friends partying rather than re-wiring our car’s electrical system. Not to mention the days spent helping around the house moving the hot-water tank from one end of the basement to the other - in turn rerouting water feeds and plumbing. I wasn’t a big fan of it then, and my dad definitely grew frustrated with me — but in retrospect, I’m glad he did it, as many of the skills stuck and have helped me throughout my life — especially over the past 5 years.
Before my dad’s health began to degrade — one thing we began to do was, from time to time, work on my motorcycle. But this time it was me doing the research and labour with my dad looking over my shoulder as a sort of quality control.
These days, I continue to work on my motorcycle alone. It brings my problem-solver brain a sort of zen-like tranquillity. Overall my motorcycle, a 1976 BMW R5/75 has been running great - these bikes were built to last. As one rider once put it "They were built simple and sturdy enough for drunk Bavarian soldiers to use and fix during the war." This week sees me doing routine maintenance to make sure things are in good working order for a rather lengthy upcoming ride I'm joining in on.
Fine-tuning the bike aside — I’ve also been fine-tuning my life. As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I’m shifting focus onto more creator-owned works, my health (which I sorely neglected over the past couple of years), and my work/life balance — which I know will never be perfect, but as long as the pendulum swings gently in the centre, rather than the extremes — I’m happy.
Now, let’s continue that look back (and purge my soul a lil’ more)…
THE LAST 5 YEARS, GIVE OR TAKE / Part 2
To continue from last month. About a year before my father’s accident, R.A.I.D. — the studio I am part of, was being forced out of its previous location putting us on the hunt for a new home. We found a space - but it was far from turn-key. It was beyond raw and needed to be stripped down and re-fashioned into a workable space. To make this big move move feasible I had to incorporate R.A.I.D. into a proper business — rather than just a clubhouse where we all shared the cost of rent. It was a necessity in many regards; to secure proper financing for renovations, a stipulation of the contract; and well... it had been something I was considering for years, but had received pushback from other members.
Things began with enthusiasm — everyone was excited by the new space and its potential. But as shit began to hit the fan, the stress started to rise. Our initial contractor fucked us over and took off with the advance we had paid, leaving our space in shambles — and what little work he had done, was quite poor. We hired a second contractor that came in and fixed a portion of the bad work and brought the primary studio area up to useable conditions — allowing us to move in (a month later than planned) and utilze a portion of the space.
We couldn’t however afford to continue to pay the new contractor to continue the job beyond what he had done. So what we had hoped would be finished by the time we moved in would continue for several years as things were worked on in a pieces; whether by contractors, through favours, or by select studio members and myself. It was a terrible scenario — but our options were nil, and the studio was operating at a loss every month. A year in, almost half of the members left, income was depleting, and debt was rising — the situation was beyond stressful.
Then in March 2020 the global pandemic hit and saved R.A.I.D..
I won’t go into the nitty gritty of it all — but due to lockdown measures, we were afforded time to complete renovations, and thanks to government aid for ailing businesses affected by the pandemic, we managed to cover our bills and survive. Everyone came together, members new and old, and lent a hand where they could.
It was an emotional rollercoaster.
To see everything you’ve worked for fall apart, to the point where you’re about to give up all hope, and just watch it all burn — to then have it rise (albeit slowly) like a phoenix from said dumpster fire and come out stronger than before — all thanks to the kindness and generosity of those around you, it’s just… WOW.
Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”
— How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
I joke, but it’s true — how the R.A.I.D. crew came together, along with help from friends and colleagues, and especially the support (and help - she wields a mean paintbrush!) of my then GF Stef, truly helped me ride out an emotional storm.
I can’t say I made all the right decisions during this time. It’s like being lost in the middle of a storm. You kind of just react, steer the ship, and hope you survive with your crew by your side.
If I never said it - thank you. You are all forever in my heart.
Someone visited the studio recently and took the space in. Citing how amazing and inspiring it is — and said “you must be proud.”
I’d been steering the ship for so long, battling the storm, that once we hit calmer waters I don’t think I ever took a moment to look and see the beauty of what we accomplished. I stepped across the street to take in our new HQ and smile - we built a pretty awesome place. But what makes me smile even more is seeing it full of people, with new personalities and creative energy. Our home is amazing — but it’s nothing without the wonderful people within its walls.
We’ve come out of several tumultuous years strong and fighting. Our studio membership has grown - and the business that is now R.A.I.D. is ever evolving in new and exciting ways. More on that another day.
Right now I have a motorcycle to prep for an adventure — moments of which I hope to share next time we chat.
Till then — let’s talk about the stuff you’re actually here for…
ALL THE COVERS / variants galore
As I transition from doing regular monthly comic book interiors — I’ve been working on a variety of variant covers for companies, particularly Ablaze, BOOM!, and DC Comics to keep my self present in the industry (and earn a bit of a paycheque till my other endeavours stabilize). In the coming months you’ll find my art gracing the covers of such series as House Of Slaughter, Briar, Mech Cadets, and Titans!
Ideally, It’d be wonderful to have a regular cover gig on an ongoing series. I did, in fact, get nominated for Best Cover Artist for the 2021 Eisner Awards — I wonder if the would work in my favour 🤔
Unfortunately I can’t show annnnny of the covers I’ve been working on as none have been announced or released — but I’ll share as soon as I can. Funnily enough though, as I was writing this my comps came in for a variant cover I did back in may 2020 arrived! The cover was for issue 3 of Alienated by Simon Spurrier and Chris Wildgoose (if you don’t know his work, do yourself a favour and check him out)!
DEEP CUTS / comics & jazz
Deep Cuts by Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark is retrospective of the jazz scene in America throughout the decades using analogs for real-life musicians. It’s a wonderful series that features an all-star cast of artists over SIX DOUBLE-LENGTH ISSUES that weave stories of struggle, joy, and hope.
Every issue showcases a different artist and decade; Danilo Beyruth / 1910s, Helena Masellis / 1920s, Diego Greco / 1930s, Juni Ba (Monkey Meat) / 1950s, and Toby Cypress (The Gravedigger’s Union) / 1960s, and I get to dive into the 1940s in Deep Cuts #4. The entire series is coloured by Igor Monti (Radiant Black, Inferno Girl Red, Supermassive) with connecting covers across all six issues by the legendary Chris Brunner!
The first issue of the series hit stands April 26th - so you still have time to snag it!
KUKUBURI / where I’m at
I’m super thrilled that I’m able to make Kukuburi my priority thanks to all the wonderful people out there that backed my Kickstarter campaign in 2022. It’s mind-blowing to think that 800+ people donated little chunks to help make this, my dream, a reality.
Now, let’s talk about the book, and its progress.
It’s been quite interesting re-visiting Kukuburi all these years later and re-calibrating it for print. I don’t mean adjusting the CMYK levels or DPI — I’ve always worked with the notion of the printed page in mind. Rather I mean adjusting the story flow, page turns, and, most importantly Nadia’s character arc for the first volume. Originally I had developed volume one of Kukuburi to be about 250 pages. The problem is, when I decided to go to finally go to print — to make my life easier, and the books a little more affordable to create, I decided to split volume one in half. With this, the story felt a bit incomplete - especially for Nadia who I felt needed a stronger arc as she travelled deeper into the Inbetween.
With the help of my good friend and (now) editor Zack, we finessed the story to add those missing elements. After some back and forth, we locked in the refreshed narrative and layouts. The story now clocks in at 160 pages. This makes it a nice hefty book - most likely 176 - or potentially 192 pages if I add extra ephemera to the back of the book - such as sketches, layout, and process content. Let me know if you would like to see such additional material.
One fun thing I've decided to do - which I was unable to do online - is utilize a double-page spread to make the vistas of the Inbetween sing. It’s a nice addition to the visual storytelling that adds more impact to key moments.
I estimate completing the new art for Kukuburi by the end of summer, after which I’ll build out and design the book, and hopefully take it to print in time to have it in people’s hands for the holidays. A little longer than expected — but I have to be realistic about the time I have, and the quality of work I want to put in.
Once the book has been sent to the printer - I’ll begin on volume two which I hope to Kickstart in spring of 2024! Luckily I have 100 pages of that one done already…
CONVENTIONS / where you can find me
This weekend (May 27-28) you’ll be able to find me showing with RAID Press at Toronto’s The Word On The Street festival held at Queen’s Park. We’ll be located at booth 44B and the event is free to the public. So, if you’re in the neighbourhood drop on by and discover some amazing authors and books.
Next month you’ll be able to find me in Charlotte, NC, at HEROES - hands down, one of my favourite comic conventions. This year I’ll be doing things a little differently though. My original art rep Essential Sequential will be tabling — but I’ll be set up with RAID Press at their first U.S. show alongside Marcus To, Eric Vedder, S.M. Carter, and Dax Gordine!
I’m not sure of our table number just yet, but I know we’ll be in the vicinity of (if not in) the Indie Island section of the show. Please come on by and say hello, and make our first show south of the border as RAID Press an awesome one.
So… that was a lot. Kinda ramble on there.
Thanks so much for reading, and the continued support, it’s truly appreciated.
Have a lovely weekend!
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