magpies - a tale of two

Portrait of me

while I was in Los Angeles I got to collaborate with portrait photographer Charlie Chipman on a super cool project involving me taking pictures with a medium portrait camera and then him building a lamp with them and taking my picture.
I think it represents the whole process of putting magpies together beautifully (and thanks to his skill and the amazing makeup and hair from Sarah Nelson) I got to actually come out kinda cool.

If you’re curious about some behind-the-scenes, head over to strobist

On tweaking and polishing

I’ve been working a lot on fixing small things that were bugging me, lately. Take the chapter covers, for example.
My process was to take a black and white photo, print it out, distress it, add something on top of it and re-photograph it. I then separately painted with some white paint on a black piece of paper, scanned that, put it on top of the picture and write the title in photoshop.

the first thing that was bugging me is that the image was looking like a selective colorization, which is something so lame I can’t put into words. It’s not: it’s a color picture of a black and white print and a golden ring, but it’s not like I can write a disclaimer to make sure everyone knows that.
The second thing was that I was spending all this time doing everything “for real” and even though I really like that font, there was something that -in my opinion- came across as “fake”.

So there was more distressing and with the help of Nicola-the-amazing, we finally got to something I’m happy with. I think you can really see the difference, here.

The challenging part will be now to fine-tune my hand writing and his hand writing so that they look consistent when they appear on the same page and still easy to read, but at the same time they need to be different enough to convey two different voices. It’s tempting to go apeshit with the text, since I can count on someone who is capable of doing great stuff, but I keep telling to myself that legibility comes first…

How I spend my spare time these days

Re-learning how to write is both fun and frustrating. Nothing like trying to keep some sort of consistency in your lettering makes you realize you have been spending way too much time on a computer. After a while, writing the same sentence over and over gets stale, so to spice it up a little bit I decided to watch horrible TV shows and write down sentences I would overhear.

I needed something that would be meaningless enough for me not to watch and entertaining enough for me not to get too bored too soon.
So that’s how I ended up watching Real Housewives of Every Place on Earth (Beverly Hills being my favourite) and now switching to Dance Moms.

Today I also had a skype call with Nicola, who’s in charge of the Mr.Tippletoe chapters and the titles and I almost wet my pants when I saw what he’s doing with the chapter covers. This also means I need to step up my game and go watch more TV crap!

Inking might not be my forte

I got talked into at least trying to do part of the lettering for Magpies (the parts regarding the female character) and this is what happened 15 minutes after I opened the india ink bottle.
There might be a steep learning curve here, people.

First draft: DONE!!!!

I can’t believe I’m finally writing this post! The first draft of Magpies is completed, all 150 pages of it!
I’ve sent the digital file to the very few selected beta-readers I have picked (aka, friends with a good background in graphic novels who I trust enough to let them tell me what sucks without feeling hurt) and now I can wait for their first impressions while enjoying this feeling of getting some HUGE out of my system.

What’s next? Well, for starters, I need to pack my bags, as tonight we fly to Formentera, where I will enjoy a week of teaching photography, sunbathing and very little else. Then I’ll re-read what I’ve done, hoping one week is enough to put some distance between me and my work. By then I should have some feedback too, so that will be helpful.
Then Magpies will go into the hands of the person doing the lettering and while he works on figuring out the characters’ voices, I will be making sure the visual part will reach the level I want it to reach. While doing this, I’ll have to figure out how to release it, as well.

I know we are going to make a digital version for iPad, for sure, but I’ll definitely look into making a printed edition too. I have a target price in mind (I don’t want the printed edition to cost more than 25-30 euros) and I know what kind of quality I want (there’s no way I’m letting someone print this on toilet paper with a binding that falls apart the second time you read it). The next few months are probably going to be a good mix of exciting and frustrating…


Almost There

I’m starting to actually see the end of it. It’s exciting a scary at the same time, since I’ve been thinking about having the whole project as a finished thing for so long that I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t saying “and then there’s this thing I’m working on…”

Then again, it’s not like I’m going to be finished with it: I’m going to review it, changes are going to be made, the lettering will be incorporated during the summer and so on and so forth. But still. I can taste it.
My days are a bit crazy: wake up, be in the studio by 9, work ’till 1pm, eat, back in studio and 2pm, work until 8 pm, eat, back in the studio by 9pm, work until 1 or 2am. Go home, sleep, repeat.

In the morning I usually work on printing and cutting figurines, in the afternoon I build dioramas and take pictures, at night I take pictures to be printed and cut the next morning and I finish the spreads.
And yet, I’d do this every day of my life, if I could.


Skyscrapers and graveyards

I’ve been spending the whole weekend locked in the studio and I’m pretty proud of the rate I’m working at.
Chapters 1- 2- 5- 6- 7 are completely finished, chapter 4 is missing a spread and chapter 3 is well on its way. Then, of course, I have 6 out of 7 chapter cover to finish.

I’m super-tired, but it’s the kind of exhaustion that gives me amazing sleep at night.

I’ve been working of a little cityscape (and experimented several hours to decide what kind of lighting to use). Between the 2 images you see, there are about 50 photos with small differences in each frame. Finding a balance between keeping it minimal and abstract and giving enough depth and texture isn’t easy at all.

See all those windows? I almost threw them away after cutting them out and I’m so glad I didn’t, since I needed to build a graveyard for chapter 2 as well, and turning a gazillion windows into tombstones spared me a lot of work.

You can see the starting point: not very exciting, uh?

then I collected some small dead flowers from my mum’s garden (being lazy, again) and placed the strobe so that it would bring out the texture.

And to give an idea of the finished panel:

As you can see very little of the construction is visible in the final picture, yet I think that it’s those lighter and darker blobs of out-of-focus stuff in the background that make the photos believable.

Mom, I need your butt

The next 6 days are going to be a crazy roller coaster with no brakes. I have pledged to finish the first draft of magpies by june, 30th and I will. My wisdom teeth are gone (all FIVE of them) I still have a big gig on the 25th and I need to do the prep-work for a 7-days-long class I’m teaching in Spain the first week of july but hey, 6 16-hours-long workdays in a row will do the trick.

So today I ran into my parents’ kitchen asking my mum to lend me her butt: I needed a woman from behind for two panels from chapter 4 and since in the story this woman is the protagonist’s mother it seemed fitting. Plus, so much faster than doing it as a self portrait.

On the top you can see the finished image. On the bottom left: the original “10 seconds to set up” shot of my mum and, on the right, the small set I have built for it. I like cutting little windows in boxes and have the strobes fire trough that, I think it gives the final image so much more depth.

And if you’re curious about the amount of space on the page this whole thing will take, here’s the final spread:

My mum’s comment as she was heading back to her kitchen: “if you ever make money out of this, you owe it to my butt”.


Magpies behind the scenes – timelapse from bruko on Vimeo.

Today I’ve been working on some panels from chapter 2, which is when mr. Tippletoe is introduced. I had to build him a little bedroom and furnish it and I still need to find my spot in the studio, so I just kept working sitting on the floor.
It’s weird but even though here I have way more gear and space than I had in our house in L.A., I kind of miss working there and I’m still adjusting.

I guess that’s what you get when you’re a creature of habit…


Taking stock of the situation

It’s kind of hard to start working again on something I have abandoned for weeks. I need to see where I stand, what needs to be done and make sure I don’t lose track of something major while I focus on something else (that’s my specialty).

So I printed a little mockup and it’s pretty useful to carry it around and take it out when I’m not doing anything just to make sure the pages flow the way I want them to. and I love how -for the first time, since I started working on magpies- this feels real.

Of course this is not the final size: I just needed something small that can fit into my purse.

this is one of the finished spreads from chapter 6

…and one of the spreads I’m working on today, from chapter 3