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So this week I took a vacation specifically to recharge my batteries and reboot my long-neglected webcomic called "Happy Accidents". 



It's a long story, but you can read about it (and read the first strip), here: happyaccidentscomic.com/comic/…

Also, all the old strips from the previous incarnation can still be viewed on an archive site at: archive.happyaccidentscomic.co….

Enjoy!

AJ
  • Listening to: The Fratellis
  • Reading: The Hobbit
  • Watching: Sherlock
  • Playing: Black Ops 2
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
My first submission to Threadless (t-shirt site) is open for scoring, so if you'd be so kind, please go over and vote me up!


Thanks!

AJ
  • Listening to: movie scores
  • Reading: Restaurant at the end of the Universe
  • Watching: Game of Thrones
  • Playing: Battlefield 3
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
I've decided to give eBay a shot to see how well sketch cards sell, in relation to how they're doing on my Etsy store. My first listing is a 10-card set I did a couple years ago. Each card features a sidekick or henchman of a famous Disney villain. I really like this set, and I've been hesitant to sell it, but I really want to upgrade my Macbook Pro, so I'm going to see how it fares. 


Disney-sidekicks-collection by AtlantaJones
  • Listening to: movie scores
  • Reading: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  • Watching: Under the Dome
  • Playing: Battlefield 3
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
Whew, just finished writing up my roadmap for the new year. Now all I have to do is follow through with it.

Full blog here: bit.ly/UAdsIo
  • Listening to: movie scores
  • Reading: Anansi Boys
  • Watching: The Dark Knight Rises
  • Playing: Black Ops 2
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
I alluded to this a while back, but still couldn't say much. I'm excited that I can finally reveal the first trading card set I did sketch cards for.

It's "Superman: The Legend" by Cryptozoic Entertainment.

I wrote up a post about it over on my blog: atlantajones.com/superman-the-…

I'm starting my second set for Cryptozoic now and super excited about it, although it could be months (sigh) before I can even say what it's for.
  • Listening to: movie scores
  • Reading: Anansi Boys
  • Watching: Christmas movies
  • Playing: Black Ops 2
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.


For Cyber Monday, I'm offering 15% off everything in my Etsy store, including custom sketch commission orders.

Just enter the coupon code 'thanks2012' at checkout!

andrewjonesdraws.com/store
  • Listening to: my Christmas playlist on Spotify
  • Reading: Anansi Boys
  • Watching: Christmas movies
  • Playing: Black Ops 2
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
Just posted a new blog article about the issues I'm having with my "identity" being spread over so many sites and services.

I was sparked to write this after seeing Jeff Stahl (jeffstahl.deviantart.com) post on Instagram, wondering if the people that had un-followed him had done so because he'd been posting non-artwork-related photos. He was debating whether to either stop doing it, or create a separate account for personal stuff.

Check it out and let me know what you think: atlantajones.com/my-online-ide…
  • Listening to: my Halloween playlist on Spotify
  • Reading: The Haunting of Hill House
  • Watching: halloween flicks
  • Playing: Not much
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.

It seems like ever since I started drawing sketch cards, over two years ago, I've been searching for the perfect pen for white line work. It feels like I've bought and tried a half-dozen solutions, all falling short somehow. 

The one I've been tolerating for a while now is the white Gelly Roll pen from Sakura. But it's never quite worked right. Ink never seems to flow right away; you've got to bang it on the desk a couple times. And when ink does start flowing, you have to have a super light touch, or it will stop. When you do get a good line going, it'll just stop in the middle without fail. And the ball point of the pen will often cause a forked line. In short, I kinda hate it. 

Then one day recently, I saw a tutorial here on DA by the amazing Mark Brooks, and he mentioned the pen he used for thin white lines. It's the Uni-ball Signo White Gel Pen and it was in-stock on Jetpens.com. So I immediately ordered three :)

They arrived today and after just a few seconds of tests on a sketch card, I knew this was the one I'd been looking for. It laid down a solid, thin white line as soon as it touched the paper, and didn't start and stop like the Gelly Roll. Of course, I need to try it out on some real cards, but I think I'm already in love. 

Now I need to find out how to buy Mr. Brooks a beer.
  • Listening to: my Halloween playlist on Spotify
  • Reading: I Am Legend
  • Watching: halloween flicks
  • Playing: Not much
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
For a while now, I've been hinting about a secret art project I've been working on. Unfortunately, even though I'll be working on it a couple more months, I couldn't get really specific. This has been kind of a bummer, because I haven't (yet) been able to talk about the last project I finished. So it's seemed as if I haven't been doing anything at all, since I can't post much publicly.

But now I can finally divulge a bit of a teaser about what I'm working on. I am an official sketch card artist for a new, unannounced, trading card set being produced by Cryptozoic Entertainment. These are the fine folks that recently came out with card sets for The Walking Dead and DC's "New 52" comics. Actually, I first came to know of Cryptozoic from the great card and board games they've made, including games for Penny Arcade, DC Comics, The Walking Dead and World of Warcraft

I had made some inquiries to a few companies including Cryptozoic and Topps, sending them my portfolio of 60+ sketch cards I've done in the last couple years. Cryptozoic seemed to like them and said they'd consider me for an upcoming project. A month or two later, I was asked to be an artist on a new trading card set, and of course I said YES.

My commitment is 40 cards that I have to have submitted by December 7th, 2012. At first, this sounded like a long time. Now it sounds terrifyingly close. My other art commission, the day job and a long commute have all conspired to put me behind already, but I'm cranking away as fast as I can.

It could be months before I can officially reveal all the details of the project, but at least now I can say, in the vaguest terms, what I'm working on with Cryptozoic. I can't divulge the property featured in the deck, but trust me, you're familiar with it :)

Time to get back to drawing...
  • Listening to: my Halloween playlist on Spotify
  • Reading: I Am Legend
  • Watching: halloween flicks
  • Playing: Not much
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
As I sell more pieces and now I'm doing several pieces for a (so far) undisclosed project, it occurred to me maybe my signature needs a revamp. I've been using the same stylized A and J since probably high school and it's kinda boring me. Plus, I'm not sure it's even obvious what two letters they are.

Here are some quick scribbles, with my usual sig circled. Any thoughts so far?

Playing with Signatures by AtlantaJones

The main problem with my signature being only "jones", though, is if someone gets a piece without knowing the artist (say, as a sketch card or auction piece), there are only a MILLION Joneses it could be. This is the curse of having a very common first and last name. I might as well be John Smith :)
  • Listening to: SiriusXM Streaming
  • Reading: Hitchhiker's Guide
  • Watching: Superman
  • Playing: Not much
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
So it looks as if the Penny Arcade Kickstarter (kck.st/MXPV1W) will reach the $450k milestone. At that point, they'll have unlocked the "Strip Search" competition reward (penny-arcade.com/2012/07/27/st…). This will basically be a reality show in which they pick 10 webcomic artists to live together and participate in competitions, ala Project Runway. The winner will essentially get folded into the Penny Arcade machine for a year, with office space and access to PA merchandising, marketing, design, etc. Chance of a lifetime.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I have no webcomic. The last one I published at happyaccidentscomic.com/ was almost exactly a year ago. My go-to excuse is that I "have no time", which in retrospect has proven to be bullshit, if you look at how many drawings I've posted since then. So the other explanation is that it's been a combination of fear and self-doubt that's kept me from it.

So now, a year later, a truly golden opportunity will be presenting itself, and I've got nothing to show for it. Sure, I could resurrect the strip right now and try out, but I'd feel like a total sham. I wouldn't deserve it nearly as much as guys that have been slogging through their comic for years.

So while this is a major bummer to me, it does serve as a wake-up call for what happens when you let excuses get in the way of your dreams.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, they hit the $450k mark today and Strip Search call for entries has already started. After much thought, I took a deep breath and threw my hat in the ring. There's nothing to lose and everything to be gained. If nothing else, it's the trigger I needed to resurrect the webcomic. Once I get this big poster commission finished, it's on. Stay tuned.
  • Listening to: Spotify
  • Reading: Walking Dead
  • Watching: Back to the Future
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
I've been debating my artistic direction lately. I want to start up a comic strip again so badly, but it would mean I'd have to cut back on the sketches and possibly even some commissions.

To stay on even a modest comic posting schedule will take a real commitment I'm not even sure I have time for. But I feel like I have to try. Doing all this sketching lately is definitely helping me get better as an artist. But ultimately, dozens of one-off fan art pieces aren't going to take me very far.

Wish I had some idea what people would want to read and what kind of strip I could keep going. My on-hiatus strip, "Happy Accidents" (happyaccidentscomic.com/) hasn't been updated in nearly 11 months. It's had a few different tones and the last few strips are really just art experiments I did in public. For the most part, it's been just gag strips about whatever I felt was funny at the time. I always felt like gag-a-day, pop culture stuff was all I really had time (or attention) for, rather than a story-based strip with recurring characters.

I'm finding I don't read strips like PvP anymore, as the story arcs are so sprawling that by the time I come back to it, I'm completely lost and have no idea who these new characters are (plus, I've come to the sad realization that its author is a complete dick, but that's another post). Whereas, Penny Arcade does feature a recurring cast of characters, AND a lot of timely references, yet doesn't feel the need to continue a story thread all the time.

The struggle is to find some sort of balance between what kind of NEW strip will be unique enough to entice new readers, while still being something I'm interested enough in to continue with it for a long time.

I think I'm just talking out loud at this point, but any insights are welcome :)
  • Listening to: Spotify
  • Reading: Ray Bradbury
  • Watching: Back to the Future
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee.
Yesterday, my DeviantArt feed had an announcement about a new beta for their "Premium Content Platform". The short version is they're now providing a way for artists to sell digital downloads, directly from DA. On the face of it, this might seem like a good thing, but I'm not convinced yet. 

Below are some of the major points of the service and some of my initial thoughts. This is a beta, though, so things will likely flux and evolve with member feedback. But here's some high-level stuff.

Points



The first thing that jumped out at me was that buyers would not pay cash (via PayPal or whatever) for downloads, but a new form of currency, DA Points. Right away I'm leery of anything requiring "virtual currency". Facebook and Zynga haven't done that concept any favors. And the points currency Xbox Live uses is still baffling to me. 

To make things more confusing, one real dollar spent is equivalent to 80 points. I can only assume the lack of a one-to-one ratio is due to the cut they're taking, but I'll cover that next. 

Points can be purchased via PayPal or credit card, but can never be converted back into real currency, so make sure you don't buy more than you really need.

The Cut



Based on member comments so far, one of the biggest sticking points is the huge cut DeviantArt is taking on every purchase, a whopping 20%. This strikes me as more than just a convenience fee, and I've not (yet) heard a convincing reason why it's so high. My guess is it's DA's way of anticipating the extra storage and bandwidth costs of hosting and delivering bigger files, like eBook PDF's, etc. They also could just be taking a page from the Apple playbook, who also takes a 20% cut from every sale. Somehow I think Apple is more justified in doing so. For one thing, a lot of iOS apps are HUGE. For another, they all have to be reviewed by an actual human being. Neither of those things apply to most downloads that will be sold on DA. 

Let's face it, most of us artists don't sell a huge volume of art, and when we do, it's super important that we keep our margins high. For me, that means not paying a ton of monthly e-commerce fees, keeping packing and shipping costs down, etc. It costs me twenty cents to list an item on Etsy, and another 3-4% in transaction fees from Paypal when an item is sold. That seems fair to me. And someday when my prices go up and I'm selling more artwork, I'll be more willing to front the cost of a full store like Big Cartel or Shopify.

Currently, I'm in the planning stages for my first sketch book, and the last thing I want to do is give DA $2 from a $10 sale. It just doesn't compute. And as many commenters are pointing out, why do that when you can just paste a link to Etsy (or any other site) where your profits will be higher?

The other issue is that DA will hold onto your money from all sales for 14 days (business days?), before paying you via check, PayPal or DA points. There's no mention about whether you'll need to reach a minimum balance to take a payout, though.

What to Sell?



For my part, I'm not even sure I'll ever have anything viable to sell on DeviantArt. I had always hoped they'd offer full-on purchasing solutions for both digital downloads and physical products. It would be nice to consolidate everything into DA, and not have to double-up posts on Etsy. But even if they did offer it down the road, I'm still not willing to lose 20% of every sale. 

So when limited to digital downloads, I think it's pretty, well, limited. Examples they gave are artists selling custom brushes, stock photos, texture and background packs or PDF's, which might include ebooks or tutorials. Right now, I have none of that to offer. 

And the big limitation is…wait for it…no fan art.

Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily disagree with this. DA can't take the chance on getting busted because a handful of artists wanted to sell desktop wallpapers featuring Batman or Mickey Mouse. But it does serve to limit things further. 

To be fair, I can really see a few artists doing really well with this. Artists that already have a big following and/or a lot of original materials that fit into this mold. Producers of brushes and stock photography could make a nice bit of extra money. However, I think the vast majority of products offered up will sit unsold for a very long time.

Final Thoughts



I should reiterate once again that they literally just launched this beta yesterday, and these are my initial thoughts. I have no doubt the folks at DA will monitor how things are being used, along with member feedback and/or complaints. However, two of the biggest sticking points for artists, the "points" issue and the high 20% cut, are not likely to change. 

Looking forward to seeing how this evolves. I just don't think it's for me (yet).
  • Listening to: Spotify
  • Reading: Ray Bradbury
  • Watching: Braves baseball
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Mio lemonade
Throwing an idea out there to fellow artists.

As you may (or may not) know, I run a side service where I take online orders for doing headshot avatars for people for use on Facebook, Twitter, etc. They're called Avatomics (avatars + comics): avatomics.com.

I built the system myself, and it's pretty basic right now. But it allows the customer to upload a reference photo, pick a background color, and tell me their hair/eye color, etc. I'm planning an upgrade to the site where I also let people pick three "types" of avatar: normal, caricature and zombie. I'll also add more color pickers so people can even specify their exact skin color, as it's SO hard to determine from a photo sometimes.

Lately, I've seen a lot of artists on DA and elsewhere say they're "open for commissions" and they just say to "note them" or email them paypal info. That seems like a real stone-age way to go about things.

What if I were to build a new site expressly for artists to better make themselves available for commissions? Here's some things it would do:

* You could prominently mark yourself as OPEN or CLOSED for commissions
* Maybe you could have a waiting list or watchlist for people wanting to know when you're taking commissions again
* You could specify EXACTLY how many commission slots you had available, so that when they're filled, your status goes to CLOSED for commissions again
* You could price commissions however you wanted
* There could be different types of commissions, almost like separate "products" in a store. Examples would be: sketch cards, head shots, body shots, etc
* Each type of commission you make available can have any number of "fields" attached, like: instructions from the buyer, hair color, eye color, etc
* Buyers could upload multiple images and/or link to URL's for reference
* Payments through Paypal for ease of use

This wouldn't be a trivial thing to build, but it would certainly scratch my own itch, so to speak, and I think it could really help out a lot of artists that do commissions regularly.

So what do you think? Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated!

PS: If someone else has already built this exact same system, please let me know ;)

UPDATE: I just registered openforcommissions.com and open4commissions.com. Step one, complete.
  • Listening to: Pink Floyd
  • Reading: Ray Bradbury
  • Watching: Braves baseball
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Mio lemonade
Someone made a really great comic strip out of the Neil Gaiman commencement speech I wrote about a while ago. Neil himself liked it and reposted it on his blog.

It's also available as a print, which I'll be grabbing as soon as I get another commission. Anyone game?

  • Listening to: Pink Floyd
  • Reading: Ray Bradbury
  • Watching: not much. No time.
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Keurig Coffee
Every now and then, all us artists need a pep talk. Okay, some of us need one almost daily, but I digress. I thought I'd share two videos I found recently from two people I greatly respect and admire. Each of them really hit home in a particular way, and they both have messages I think we all need to hear every once in a while.

The first is from Neil Gaiman, author of books like American Gods, Coraline and The Graveyard book, as well as the acclaimed Sandman comic series. Neil is easily my favorite author at the moment, not to mention I could hear his British accent all day long, no matter what he was talking about.

This video is from his commencement speech to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to the class of 2012. At nineteen minutes, it's long, but I urge you to watch it all. It's just that good.

View video: vimeo.com/uartsphilly/neil-gai…

Did I tell you? If this didn't make you want to jump out of your seat and go make some art RIGHT NOW, then maybe you should check for a pulse. Seriously, you might need checked out.

The second video is from filmmaker Kevin Smith. This is from one of his latest Q&A specials called "Burn in Hell", in which he spends a lot of time talking about the film "Red State" and dealing with the backlash from religious extremists. 

However, there's a great bit where he talks about the death of his father and how it made him reevaluate what it means to be an artist and put things in its proper perspective.

Fair warning, as we're talking about Kevin Smith here, this video contains naughty language. Even if that's not your cup of tea, I still urge you to give it a view. It kinda choked me up the first time I saw it. 

View video: youtu.be/TIVWjz0lidA

So there you go. Your daily dose of inspiration. I have a feeling these will be in my regular rotation the next time I need a pep talk.

PS: You can view this post in its original form on my blog, with embedded videos all in one spot: tmblr.co/ZyG8KvMJrSen
  • Listening to: Pixar soundtracks
  • Reading: DC Guide to Inking Comics
  • Watching: the Atlanta Braves lose
  • Playing: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Drinking: Keurig Coffee


Here is my contribution to the 2012 Red Dot Auction, to benefit the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity. The idea is that multiple artist submit paintings on identical 12" x 12" canvases, which go up for silent auction. The kicker is that they are all unsigned, so buyers are bidding purely on the basis of the artwork, not the artist themselves. This is pretty cool, as you're just as likely to pick up a piece from an emerging artist (like me) as from an established pro.



Last year, I submitted a piece featuring Porky Pig and Daffy Duck, from one of my favorite Looney Tunes films, "Robin Hood Daffy". That one was done entirely with gouache paints, a type of opaque watercolor. This year, to celebrate what would have been Chuck's 100th birthday, I created a piece with both Chuck and Bugs, which I titled "Partners".



I started off by digitally sketching the piece in Sketchbook Pro, refining it before it even got to the canvas. I then printed it out and using a light under my glass-topped desk, transferred the sketch to the canvas (note to self for next year: buy a cheap projector).



I got kinda behind on time, and needed to finish the colors super quick. I essentially had a single weekend to do all this. So with some encouragement from my wife, I decided to give coloring it with my Prismacolor markers a try. I think for the most part, it worked out really well. And from a distance, the markers almost look like paint.

The background was a flat blue gouache paint. That part didn't turn out as I'd hoped, but I didn't have time to be picky. And as with last year's piece, all the black ink lines were done entirely with a brush and India ink.

As I write this, I still don't know if a) my piece sold, or b) for how much. Last year's painting went for $300, so I'm hopeful I was able to make a decent contribution this time around. I'll update this post when I have that information.

As always, it's such a thrill to get to work with the Chuck Jones organization. I also recently launched a new website for the Center that I designed and developed, and hopefully I can stay involved with them for the foreseeable future (assuming they'll have me).

  • Listening to: Pixar soundtracks
  • Reading: Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Watching: Atlanta Braves Baseball
  • Playing: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Drinking: Keurig Coffee
Lately I've been pondering some new things I can do in the way of art pieces I can offer up for sale. I now have over 40 hand-drawn pieces up in the Etsy and Big Cartel stores, but I think I really want to put together a short sketch book and offer it as a PDF download.

So naturally, the main issue is that almost all my pieces are considered "fan art" and are licensed properties I can't sell in a book, printed or electronic. I still haven't developed any original characters so it would take some time to build up enough to fill even a modest number of pages.



So to test the waters, here's what I'm planning on doing. But first a little back story. WAY back in 1988, while I was a sophomore in high school, I created a superhero character called "Thundermutt". It started off very cartoony, and then evolved into a Punisher-esque vigilante character. The premise, flimsy as it was, was that Thundermutt was the by-product of government experiments to create a sort of super soldier, which had the sight, hearing and instincts of canines. Of course, something always goes wrong.

I messed around with the character, sketching him in study hall and what-not. Then I ended up writing a serial story for him that spanned several issues of the school newspaper. After I graduated, I kind of abandoned him.

Then in 1996, I got a wild hair to create my first comic book, and Thundermutt resurfaced. I wrote, penciled and inked the 16-page book in about 5 weeks and "self-published" it, which at the time meant photocopying and binding it myself at the local copy shop. I made about 200 copies and sold them in a local comic shop for a buck apiece. They all sold and I had to do another short printing.

I'd proven to myself I could finish a book, and at the time, I thought it was pretty decent. Reading it now, it's pretty damn rough, but I'm still proud of what I accomplished, especially not even having a computer at the time.

So in this first ebook, I'm going to take high-res scans of the original photocopied issue, clean them up and possibly re-letter them. I'll also write a more detailed piece on how I came up with the character and how it has literally followed me around over the last 20+ years. In addition, I'll also include some other artwork I was drawing at the time (Fall 1996).

On top of all that, there will be brand new sketches, including re-imaginings of Thundermutt and some concepts I might use in a new book featuring the furry avenger. So it'll really be a mix of (really) old and new artwork, really putting in perspective how my skills have evolved since I was a 24-year-old, Todd-MacFarlane-worshiping employee at Wal-Mart.

The real question is, will anyone be interested? The plan is to sell the eBook for a dollar and see how it goes. It'll also be something I can print a few copies of for when I'm ready to hit small comic cons. I figure this is a low-risk way to enter the realm of creator-owned books, so time to take a deep breath and jump right in!
  • Listening to: Tim Minchin
  • Reading: Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Watching: Atlanta Braves Baseball
  • Playing: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Drinking: Mio
I recently did a week of Avengers sketches and here they are as a 6-piece set! They are all drawn with Micron pens, Pentel Pocket Brush pens and colored with Prismacolor markers on 9x12" bristol paper.

They include:
Avengers: Thor by AtlantaJones Avengers: Iron Man by AtlantaJones Avengers: Hawkeye by AtlantaJones Avengers: Hulk by AtlantaJones Avengers: Captain America by AtlantaJones Avengers: Black Widow by AtlantaJones

There's only one set, so get it while you can!. And by the way, the real pieces look much better than their scans, as usual.

UPDATE: The Avengers set is now sold, and to my first international customer, no less! Thanks for lookin'.
  • Listening to: Tim Minchin
  • Reading: Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Watching: Atlanta Braves Baseball
  • Playing: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Drinking: Mio
This week I drew 4 cards featuring characters from the animated film "Despicable Me" They're inked with Micron pens and colored with Warm Gray Prismacolor markers.

Despicable Me: It's So FLUFFY! by AtlantaJones Gru and Minions Sketch Card by AtlantaJones Despicable Me: Minion 2 by AtlantaJones Despicable Me: Minion by AtlantaJones

The set of four cards is $30 and all come in heavy vinyl sleeves.



To buy, hit my store here: www.etsy.com/listing/96942487/…

Thanks for lookin'!

AJ
  • Listening to: Pink Floyd
  • Reading: Walt Disney biography
  • Watching: Atlanta Braves Baseball
  • Playing: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Drinking: Newman's Own coffee