I haven’t been blogging much over the course of the pandemic, but despite challenging times it has been a productive year for my studio work. I made a conscious choice to step away from illustrating nonfiction graphic novels, the bread and butter of my freelance, in pursuit of fictional storytelling and worldbuilding, a desire I’ve had since I started out as a freelancer about 18 years ago.
One project in particular has taken on an unexpected life of its own. I met a writer online just before the summer of 2020 and we started having weekly zoom meetings. It started as a work-for-hire comic illustration gig, but the organic nature of the collaboration allowed me to invest more heavily into the way the story was being told mainly because I wasn’t working off a script, but rather ideas for scenes and story ideas.
A long story short, the project has evolved into a passion project for me. I’ve put hundreds of hours into bringing it to life and even flew out to Chicago to meet the writer in person. Seven White and I have completed a 40 page Part One of the story we’re telling and the time has come for us to start sharing it with readers. I ask that you consider helping us realize our dream to continue the journey of this project. It’s going to be self-published and creator-owned, so we need the support to make it happen. Pleasesign-up for the email listandfollow the instagram page to stay up to date with our progress. I can’t thank you enough for your support.
Since the passing of Jesse Hamm one week ago, I’ve been mulling over something to say to honor him. I met him around 2007 and many people have known him longer and more in depth than I, but I always felt lucky to consider him a friend. In 2007 I aspired to draw comics and joined Portland’s Helioscope Studio (what was then known as Mercury Studio) and came into the good fortune of working alongside Jesse as a background penciler for comic artist pros like Ron Randall, David Hahn and Matthew Clark who were generous enough to provide the extra work they had to people like me who wanted to work professionally. I quickly began to notice that Jesse was adept at background pencils and was impressed by his underdrawings and perspective grids and realized I should pay attention to his work if I knew what was good for me. When I saw his drawings for Good As Lily (DC Comics, 2007) I became aware of just how skilled he was. Not only at technical drawing, but also his ability to draw expressive characters and dynamic sequentials. I could see influences of Alex Toth, Dan Decarlo and Jaime Hernandez, but his was an entirely unique voice.
From there on out, I became a Hamm-head and followed his work as is unfolded to be more impressively layered than even my first positive impression. I noticed the subtly of the gestures in his figures and how he pushed beyond the way superheroes are typically rendered and posed by emphasizing their humanity and integrity.
Reading his essays on comics and drawing (his “Hamm Tips”) was a jaw-dropping revelation for me. Here was a guy who was not only exceedingly talented at his craft, but made the effort to generously offer up everything he had learned about that craft so freely and eloquently. Jesse’s “Hamm Tips” are still available on his Gumroad . They are absolutely accessible to all skill levels, empowering and inspirational to anyone interested in learning about the craft of comics and the art of drawing.
One of my early memories of Jesse was sometime in the first year of working in the studio. I showed him my quirky freshman effort of a comic book. He turned his attention completely toward it, read it page by page at a desk just a few feet away from me. He didn’t judge it critically despite its flaws and he genuinely seemed entertained by it. His response felt so validating. That may have been Jesse’s greatest superpower, his ability to enable creators to put their work out into the world. He saw great value in the voices of fellow creators. You can hear it in his essays and see it practiced in his own work.
Thinking back on my memories of Jesse, I thought of the times we tabled together at conventions, I always felt like I needed a shirt that read “I’m with Genius.” To me, not enough people fully understood how good he was. Of course there were many who absolutely knew and he always had commissions during those shows, but I felt that his art was underrated. One day in 2015 was different, though. He nonchalantly dropped an image on his Tumblr and wrote, “For those of you who don’t understand archaeology, I have made a diagram.”
And those of us at Helioscope Studio (then Periscope Studio) got to watch it go viral in real time. I love the two hashtags #jesse hamm #archaeology. The simplicity of it, the oddly confident voice of the caption, it was meme perfection. I remember it got rolling and we were placing bets if it would break 50,000 likes by midnight. This viewing party was taking place in an email thread, but I could sense Jesse’s pleasure and it felt to me like all was right in the world for a brief moment as Jesse’s wit and creativity was being celebrated in the best way that 2015 had to offer.
We encouraged him to make a T-shirt and with his wife Anna’s help it was available on a store site (unfortunately, I don’t think it’s available to purchase anymore). I bought a couple and my eldest son was wearing Jesse’s shirt the day we drove by Stonehenge. (Well, the Stonehenge of Washington state, anyway.)
If you mine the work that Jesse posted online (via Instagram, Tumblr, etc.) you will be greatly rewarded. I would look forward to his holiday-themed drawings of which there are many, like these two Christmas gags:
Over the years, as I’ve become an illustrator who often works on a computer in a home studio, and of course with the isolation that has been required of all of us over the past year, I saw very little of Jesse, but I took it for granted that we would continue to cross paths. I would look forward to his posts on Toucan as well as the Hamm Tips that are still available on Gumroad. I took it for granted there would be many more. Now I just hope there will be a collection of his comic art and a book of his Hamm Tips. He left us so much to remember him by and I’m grateful that I can hear his voice in my head as I read those essays, but right now the loss feels like too much. All of us have lost a great ally to our creative expression. Thank you, Jesse, for your generous gifts.
I notice I’m getting traffic on my website for the Star Wars in Ancient Greece illustrations I drew in 2015. If you are new to my website, welcome! Thanks for your interest. If are interested in getting a print or t-shirt or a mug or doormat or shower curtain or various other items with my Star Wars drawings, I can direct you to my Artist Shop. I currently only have two images available. If you would like to see some of the others made available, please leave a comment. Thank you and remember : “The Fourthsurrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.You must feel theFourth around you; here, betweenyou, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.”
Please join us 10th Annual NYCC x MCM Metaverse Charity Art Auction to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!Have Fun. Get Art. Save Lives. You Can Make A Difference!
I’m contributing this piece to the auction going on now. If you’re a fan of the Mandalorian, Cara Dune, and Baby Yoda (and really who isn’t?), and have the means to donate to this worthy cause, please check it out! The details are listed below including a link to all the impressive art available.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Crown of Axis arena. Wade’s request for a cover image featuring two powerful female gladiators had been executed in style by Aaron McConnell:original sketch
For a change, Aaron decided to hand-paint the piece, old school instead of digital. That turned out to create a delivery problem. At first, the paints wouldn’t dry. Well, they dried a bit, but the yellow was taking a loooooong time. Then Aaron’s scanner tech couldn’t pick up the colors he’d painted with properly. Neither could Aaron’s photos.
drying on the easel
So Aaron went over to Lee Moyer’s house, since they were working together on a different project and Lee has a Serious Scanner. And if you know Lee, you know Lee’s super-power—he had suggestions. They got the piece scanned and then worked together on the paints, turning a high-noon situation into an evening showdown. Aaron held onto the piece for another couple weeks, but he has overcome separation anxiety and is calling it done!
Crown of Axis cover by Aaron McConnell, with paints assist by Lee Moyer
Money for the sale of the book and the accompanying art auction goes toward the Seattle Children’s Hospital! This marks the 6th year in a row that I’ve had a piece in the book (see preview of my 2020 piece above). I won’t be in the Artist Alley this year, but I will be attending at the No’madd Booth #109 in the ECCC Exhibition Hall, probably Friday-Sunday (3/13-3/15).
This digital painting is part of a ongoing project know as No’madd that I’ve been developing with writer/creator Andrew Kafoury and his team of “spiritual warriors,” to quote Alejandro Jodorowsky. Please learn more at www.nomadd.net and follow the latest news on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
This issue is a surprising delight. “Ricardio Arrythmia” turns a simple concept into something simultaneously unusual and slightly moving. McConnell’s art and lettering is a unique twist for Adventure Time, and while some panels almost look like something out of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, that only adds to the charm.
— Jenna Anderson (for Comic Book Reviews at Comicbook.com)
Adventure Time Comics #21 has been available at comic shops for a couple weeks now. This is the first comic work for a licensed property that I’ve written and illustrated. I wasn’t too familiar with the expansive universe of Adventure Time a year ago, but my son and I watched many episodes and had a good time following Finn and Jake through the rich tapestry of the world and its various dimensions. The Adventure Time Comics series, for those not familiar, is a monthly comic book anthology that allows contributing creators to play with the source material and interpret it in any manner they prefer. Once my pitch concept was approved, I was given cart blanche with very little editorial interference. I’m grateful to Matt Levine the assistant editor at BOOM! who thought I’d be a good candidate for the book. I’m also thankful for my sounding boards during the writing process, Jim Berry and Dan McConnell, both of whom contributed ideas to the story.
Now for some preview pages from the 12 page story, and below the color art are some of the original pages for those interested in the process. Further below are some sketchbook drawings that were done in the early stages of development along with rough layouts and miscellaneous scribblings. Cue the intro song to Adventure Time and “come along with me…”