Free Atena

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This year the young activist artist Atena Farghadani’s went on trial after she was arrested in Iran for drawing political cartoons of the parliament. In a tradition almost as old as illustration itself, she drew her government as animals (“insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system,”), and now she’s facing over 12 years in jail.

The greatest sources of information have been the Cartoonists Rights Network International (@CRNetInt on twitter) and Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) for following her progress. We gathered over 30k signatures for her appeal, then watched in horror as her attorney was arrested for the “indecency” of publicly shaking her hand. She’s gone on hunger strikes and been put through invasive tests, and we’ve yet to hear any good news about her situation. Search for her name on twitter and you’ll see countless postings as people spread the word of her sentencing and that she’s still in jail. Don’t forget. This woman is in jail for her drawings.

It’s been nearly a year. I drew Atena several months ago to spread the word, but was saddened shortly after to see that the Amnesty UK had taken down the signature page for her petition. What do we do now? She is in the hands of the Iranian government, and just sharing and talking about this case seems to be all we can do. Earlier this year, artist were drawing cartoons for her. #Draw4Atena #FreeAtena

Farghadani’s case is just one of many. Page through the Amnesty’s website and you’ll see countless political activists who are facing similar trials. Start writing letters. Attach yourself to one case and you’ll start to feel the anguish and helplessness of the situation. I don’t know what to do except keep looking, keep updated, keep talking about it. Realize that the ability to draw and write what you feel isn’t always a free right. Throughout time freedom of speech has been given and taken away. But it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Fight for it. Use it well.

The Immaterial Girl Returns

I’ve had my head down for the past few months working on art direction, UI and design on a new mobile game that I should be able to share with you in a couple months. Games, man, they take a lot of work!

Recently I had the absolute pleasure to work on a short comic with the wonderful Kieron Gillen  for his return of the comic series Phonogram! I remember reading the first issues of Phonogram when I was a kid working at the comic book store, and I’m thrilled to be in the upcoming issue (Immaterial Girl #2)! This new series is fantastic, weird and trippy. My good friend James Sime is hosting a release party for the issue at Isotope, where I will sign and draw and we’ll drink cocktails in celebration! Here’s the info:

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So good, right? You must visit. More coming sooooooooon!

What I’m watching online

A video game that lets you grow succulent plants : my favorite sorts of games are pointless. I’m in love.
Kieron interviewed by Paste : Learn everything about Kieron.
Travel Man in Istanbul : I love Richard Ayoade, and especially love when he shows me some things to do on my upcoming trip to Turkey!

Week in Review

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Two weeks ago I went to my friend’s baby shower, and I painted a little card to go with her gifts. The card became a crowd favorite, and it’s left me with a desire to send this cute girl on adventures riding her flying kitty. Sometimes the best pieces are the simplest!

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I made some business cards for my good friend and acupuncturist Amy P at BiaoHealth. She commissioned the illustration from me several years ago for her lecture on facial acupuncture that she did at the Asian Art Museum, and I was pleased to give it a whole new life on the backs of her new cards.

I’ve also been practicing inking with a brush. For the past few years I’ve been drawing with pens, but switching back to a brush I’m blown away by the LUSHNESS that you can get with your lines! Now I’m inking my comic pages with a brush, and they’re not only going faster, but they’re turning out unlike anything else I’ve drawn. Very excited to share more of these as they progress, I’ve been pushing myself to find the right tone for my next comic, and I think I finally hit it.

Also, Sakura just came out with a new #PIGMA brush, and they gave out samples at the last Quick Draw SF, and they’re quickly becoming my favorite new tool! I can’t find them anywhere yet, though…

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Instagram is my favorite social platform, and lately I’ve been taking screenshots of my favorite instagram images, and found myself curating a little gallery. So, here’s my favorite instagram drawings from April, there’s some amazing artists to follow here, both old friends and new:

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  1. @alanforbes – SF psych rock poster god
  2. @annakoak – Koak is creating the comic you’ll be crying over in ten years.
  3. @anomysup led me to @conradroset – beautiful watercolors
  4. @kentwms – just study his posts and hope to absorb some of the painting magic
  5. @helllllenjjjjjo – coolest cartoon girls on the block
  6. @lauracallaghanillustration – a new discovery, bright lovely lady illustrations
  7. @aprolee – I’m in love with his tattoo style
  8. @mollietuggle – new discovery, her poster style invokes a classic
  9. @elfandiary – beautiful, fine portrait paintings
  10. @comicsdestroyer – it’s never a bad time to be reminded how much I adore Paul Pope
  11. @jacquelindeleon – I want to read this comic

And don’t forget to follow me at @jamdye.

That’s all for today, happy Monday!

Recipe: Dumplings

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Dumplings are so incredibly delicious and also fairly easy to make! Over the last couple months at Casa de Dyer Ho we’ve been experimenting with cooking all sorts of new dishes based on Mexican and Chinese cooking, and most recently we’ve been making our own dumplings. Jay has come up with a recipe that we’re both thrilled with, and I’m going to share them with you! These are lovingly called Jay’s Surprise Hot and Numby Gunpowder Sacks.

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The filling is fairly simple, arrange all the above ingredients, chop up your cabbage and saute it with a minced clove of garlic, then combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. While this is our favorite recipe, you can supplement and experiment! Use shallots, add in fermented broad bean paste, or throw in one of the huge variety of chiles from around the world. The trick to these dumplings is the balance between the peppers and the ma la — the “hot and numby” sensation. Once you’ve got everything mixed in a bowl, heat up some oil in a pan and plop in a spoonful of the mix. Cook it well and taste — here’s your chance to fix it. Once you’re happy with the filling’s taste, put the bowl in the fridge so the flavors can meld for at least 20 minutes.

The slurry: about 1tbs corn starch in water.

The wrappers: find yourself some nice, thin, round dumpling wrappers. Some people insist on rolling their own dough but they’re just crazy overachievers.

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Set yourself up with a little bowl of the slurry (stir it thoroughly, this is your glue) and your wrappers. There should be a lot of them in the package (about 70) and they’re TINY, so keep this in mind as you work. Hold a wrapper in the palm of your hand, put in a small spoonful of your mixture, and then dip your finger in the slurry and wet the edges (about 1/3 inch from the edge) all around the wrapper. And then, you tuck in the edges and twist. The first few will probably turn out ugly and messy, buy after a few you should start to get the hang of it, as long as you fight the temptation to put in too much filling.

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Make about 20 of these little guys, marvel as they get cuter and cuter, and then load them up in your steamer. I prefer a bamboo double-decker steamer. Arrange your little dumplings in the steamer so that they each have their own breathing room, bring your water to a boil in a pan, and set your steamer in the pan to cook. About 10 minutes should do the trick. A little longer, and they will probably get juicier. Remove lid from your steamer, and dumplings should be noticeably cooked, the wrappers will look somewhat transparent. Put your dumplings on a plate and allow to cool off a little so you don’t burn yourself. Eat hot! Use a dipping sauce of your desire.

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They go quickly, and you should have enough mixture for several batches of dumplings. Enjoy!

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More recipes we enjoy:

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings – We just made these last night, same basic method as above, but with shrimps!

Ma Po Tofu – So good! The Woks of Life is full of great recipes.

Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken – If you want to play with your sichuan peppercorns some more, this dish is a classic.

Concept Kitchen – And if you want to dream about a futuristic cooking prep table, here you go.

Project Spotlight: Brand New Ways

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I’m currently in the trenches doing front-end development on a new client website for We Are Branch, and we’re just wrapping up and readying to launch a new client website, so I’m taking a minute to reflect on one of our recent projects. Brand New Ways is the first website that Star and Shauna brought me on to help with, and it was a fun challenge to work with such detailed website mockups and rebuild them in WordPress page-by-page. A few months later, and I’m reproducing website mockups in CSS without even blinking. Shauna designed some beautiful branding and she documents it well in this blog post.

The creative part of my job tends to be the responsive design for the site, taking a website designed for wide-screen viewing and minimizing it down to a phone’s screen while maintaining it’s feel. I love getting a site to move fluidly from various window sizes to tiny screens!

Brand New Ways had a clean design and lots of nice white space, we integrated Jen’s podcasts into the blog format, and the footer is one of my favorite elements. To top it off, Jen is doing interviews with amazing people like Wayne White and Mimi Pond. I love handing off a project and the client takes off with exciting content!

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What I’m Reading:

Mad Style on TLo! The best part of Mad Men, besides the show, is reading Tom and Lorenzo’s coverage of it a few days later. This one does not disappoint. Oh, the 70’s!
The User Is Drunk – Watch a UX Designer go through the flow a submitted website and give his honest opinions of the design, while intoxicated. I love everything about this, AND it’s actually informative!
How She Got There – A great interview with Erika Hall, detailing how a career can go through many different forms, and how sometimes employing yourself is the best/only option. I found it inspiring.
Blue Q – Socks! These are great-looking socks, great colorful designs. I’ve been researching apparel websites, and I like this one. No, it’s not a promoted post, but yes, I’ll take samples.

Losing your creative project to a company

We’ve all heard the horror stories of creative people losing their projects to corporations. I remember being warned about it in college: if you go work for a major film company as an artist, they WILL own everything you create while you’re employed, so cover your ass if you’re going to do any creative work on the side. I learned to keep a fine line between my personal work and my commercial work, and it’s a line that’s left a strange mark on my portfolio. While working in gaming the opportunity to start developing new game ideas came up, and I leapt at the opportunity. While I was happy enough creating art for established games, I really wanted to be making my own games, and that drive got me into a lot of meetings where I was pitching new games ideas.

It started off small, I prototyped a little cupcake game, pulled on a UI designer, an artist and an animator, and we pitched a quick and dirty prototype during a quarterly meeting. Response was lukewarm, but the thrill of pitching potential game ideas stuck with me.

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Soon I find myself in a smaller studio where new ideas and prototyping is encouraged. We schedule out time to pitch ideas in a freeform environment, and I am pitching maybe 3 ideas at a time. I was aware that I was losing each of these ideas to the ether as I pitched them, but I knew I had a million ideas. The first few flopped really hard. One or two went to the second round, but they were similarly shut down. I kept on going, my pitches started getting better, and I got the attention of a producer and developer who helped me out with my ideas. They brought new game mechanics to the table, and I ran with themes, art styles and look-and-feel mockups.

We eventually hit a sweet spot.

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We designed a game that combined the ever-popular match-3 gameboard with time management cooking game mechanics,  internet favorite cats wearing cute little hats, and baked goods with faces.  I created a flat, pastel visual style that felt more like a cartoon on TV than your usual iPhone game. It was getting sentimental and sweet, and I was developing a connection to the game, but I also kept an eye on current gaming trends and tweaked it so that our style would stay relevant in the future.

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I made quick character expression sheets and vectorized them, handing them off to our animator who did some amazing animations for each kitty. Nothing quite like ending a day at work and getting an email attachment with you drawings come to life. It’s amazing. I was staying up late putting together animated comps of gameplay, our UI artist was losing sleep to get everything perfect, and soon our dev hopped on to make the gameboard interactive, and before we knew it we had a playable slice of the game.

We pitched it to the CEO’s, and they LOVED IT.

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It was one of the best experiences I’ve had working in a studio, we kept our team small, everyone was enthusiastic, we were doing all the prototyping work ontop of our usual workload, and we’d designed a game that was pulling attention. It was our little beacon of hope that we would be developing our own game in-house, and I was thrilled to see my idea come to life and everyone around me feeling motivated to push the game forward and rumors were that the greenlight was just around the corner.

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So what happened, you ask? Yes, the game was greenlit, and yes, the game was released a year later, but it wasn’t greenlit until my creative team was laid off. There isn’t quite a word to express knowing that your idea was good, and now you don’t get to be a part of it. Oh, and you lost your job.

And there’s nothing that can be done because the company owns your ideas.

I lost most of my game art in the process, and am only sharing these mockups now because the gameplay mechanic is now out in the open.

It leaves me wondering if you should EVER produce ideas while you’re under contract with a company. You could possibly craft a special contract for new ideas, but I’d doubt that would ever fly. You can decide to take the gamble doing pitches and prototyping the way I did, and you could even get lucky, but what happens if the idea really caught on? It’s hard to say.

You can develop your ideas on your own time, start your own gaming company on the weekends, you can release a project fairly easily as an independent publisher. You won’t have the resources, the large platform and spotlight that a company may promise you, but the idea will still be yours.

The great takeaway I got from prototyping was pulling together a diverse group of people. I was creating ideas that was bringing everyone together, a common goal that we all shared. While artists tend to hide in their corner, I found myself working with designers, engineers and UI, and that experience has lead me to pursue design and development myself. This new path I’m on? I still don’t know if it’s leading towards a design agency, a new game, or a web design studio, but it’s going to be rad and I’m going to own it from the ground up.

Is it worth the risk? That’s for you to decide.

What I’m Reading: From Java to Lady Bosses

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I’ve been staring at this beautiful painting by Jonas Wood and I’ve fallen for it so hard that it’s now permanently sitting on my second monitor. It’s got everything I love, from the bold colors, details and textures, to wonky perspective, symbolism and naturalism all working at once. Real succulents to the left of me, paintings of potted plants on the right, it’s feeling pretty good. I don’t think I’ve /ever/ posted someone else’s art on my blog, and that gave me pause and I wondered why. So for a new challenge, I want to reflect on all the stuff I’m currently enjoying, reading and listening to.

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My (digital) bookshelf is a pretty good representation of the mix of things I’m currently obsessing over. It’s gotten very girly and very business-oriented.

-JavaScript:The Good Parts to get my feet wet. I love doing front-end development and I want to keep on growing, so now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get better at JavaScript.

– Design is a Job has been a fantastic read, revealing why I enjoy designing because it’s problem solving, it’s being the one showing the work to the client, and taking control of your career knowing that the work you take on defines you. Make the world better with the work you take on!

– I’m making my way through the Anais Nin diaries, she’s jetsetting between NYC, San Francisco and Mexico in the late fourties/ early fifties. In volume four she goes to the ballet with my grandfather, Carter Harman, and they compose some music together. I’m thrilled to see his name on the page, a little window into his bohemian post-war pre-family days, and I want to turn it into a book or comic one day.

– I didn’t think I was going to read Not That Kind of Girl, but after getting absolutely floored by this last season of GIRLS and the crazy evolution of the writing, it became a necessary read. I’m now convinced that Lena’s one of the best storytellers of our generation.

– #Girlboss — another “girl” book! I just finished it this morning, and Sophia tells a story that’s empowering and bad ass. While we’re not going to start our own empires through eBay, there’s a strong correlation between following your gut, working hard at your passion, paying attention to details and doing it better than the rest.

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One of the side-effects of reading #girlboss was visiting Nasty Gal every chapter to analyze all the points she makes on styling, branding and design and how that reflects on the current site. I’ve never shopped at Nasty Gal, and I’m currently practicing Sophia’s mindset of putting your money in your savings account and not on your feet, but I had a lot of fun going through the site and finding things to put in my digital wardrobe.

Sophia has amazing taste. Her models are well-styled, every thumbnail reads quickly, and she knows how to make people want things. That’s a killer brand.

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I’ve also been getting obsessed with the podcast “Being Boss” and it’s become my motivating companion for all my days I’m working alone in the studio. I met Kathleen at Designer Vaca last year, and I was blown away by her upbeat inspired talks about building your perfect day. She’s a professional motivator for a reason. This amazing podcast lets you have your own personal Kathleen pep-talk all the time! Two of my favorites have been “How To Do Like a Boss” and “Your Website Is Your Most Valuable Employee”. So far this podcast has caused me to schedule out yoga classes like they’re important meetings on my calendar (causing me to find an amazing new yoga studio) and launch my first digital product!

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Yes! I just released Fox Head Stew #1, the first 40 pages of the comic I first put out in 2012. It’s had a windy road, but basically, the book has been unavailable for the past few years, and I haven’t known how to re-release it. Luckily, I’ve been building out some e-commerce sites over at We Are Branch, and realized how incredibly easy it is to make digital products available these days. After spending many hours re-building the book from scratch and optimizing the art, I released the first issue on Gumroad last Friday.


Buy Fox Head Stew #1!

Just one last thing, here’s T&Lo’s countdown to Mad Men. I cannot wait.

Event Spotlight: Field Day Opening Night

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We got some great photos back from Jenn Farmer from First Friday at Field Day. She’s a fantastic photographer, and got some great shots of all the characters who came out for the opening, and she took some of my favorite new shots of me. Check out the whole nights over at the Field Day Facebook.

I took photos of all my pieces right before framing them, and those are included here as well.

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My amazing buddy Lauren came out for the show, and she’s 6 months pregnant! Glamorous mama. We’ve worked on various art teams together in the past, and have some exciting new ones coming up in the future. I also cannot wait to meet her baby girl.

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The Latest Online:

Huffington Post : I was included in this round-up of queer comic artists! While I haven’t been drawing comics about girls kissing girls for quite a few years, it was really fun to dig up some of my favorite pages and be included in this list!

Mimi Pond Interview : I was thrilled to see Jen Leonard interviewing Mimi Pond, who’s a fantastic cartoonist. I read “Over Easy” recently and absolutely loved it, from the diner drama intrigue to the glimpses of Oakland in the 70’s.

We Are Branch Project Spotlight : Speaking of… here’s the project spotlight on the Brand New Ways website! Shauna designed a fantastic styleguide and website for BNW, and this was our first website collaboration that I did development on. More on that shortly…

I’m with the band : To wrap it up, here’s a photoshoot I fell in love with over at I-D. I love the models, the Keith Richards-esque clothing, the falling on the ground, all of it. Great capture.


JAMDYE



All content © 2016 Jamaica Dyer. Developed by JAMDYE.