Illustration :

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.

A Love Supreme

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On Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Grace Cathedral for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of A Love Supreme, put on by the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. I haven’t been to a church since I was a kid, and I only started listening to Jazz this year because Jay started playing me his massive jazz vinyl collection and got me hooked (listening to Coltrane while winding down from a long day is one of those treats I can hardly explain, it’s like a crackling fire, a whiskey and the best dinner you’ve ever had) and I jumped at the chance to go to this event. And let me tell you, we went to /church/.

I had such an amazing time, every detail inside the Grace Cathedral is stunning, and the massive choir took on ‘A Love Supreme’ with such passion! You couldn’t help but get swept away with it. I even enjoyed the sermon. The warmth and the positivity and the enormity and strength of that thing we can’t even explain,it was all there and I loved it. Dream of the world you want to be in, and make it happen.

In the morning, I put on “A Love Supreme” on the record player, practiced my lettering, and did a watercolor of John Coltrane, and felt swept away in it all over again.

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Designer VACA

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It’s been a week now since I was in Palm Springs, enjoying the mixed process of talking shop, meeting professionals and lounging in the pool that is Designer VACA. I imagined it to be like a reality show: put 100 female designers in the desert and watch the drama unfold! But, alas, everyone I met at the conference was sweet and open, and everyone I met was at a different point on their career path, but the decisions and conflicts seemed to be the same at every scale. Whether you were just out of school and starting at an agency, starting your freelance business THAT WEEK, or on your third year of being self-employed and expanding, everyone was pushing themselves to improve their craft and their image, from their first website redesign to launching a new studio. The energy was vivid and it’s stayed with me all week.

There were many exciting things about getting out of my studio and meeting a bunch of busy designers, from seeing that the blend of illustration and design was a trend throughout and discovering how fluid personality and work can be. When you sit at a roundtable with a group of women who specialize in branding for their clients, self-branding is a bit topic. Honesty and vulnerability were keywords heard throughout.

When we weren’t listening to guest speakers (Jessica Hische left everyone happy and inspired!), attending meetings in the morning, or business dinners at night, there was plenty of pool time and mingling over meals and going on trips to the Salton Sea. I took photos with Star and Shauna, we visited tiki bars, met new faces in the pool, and walked around the desert at night. It was HOT, but not unbearable.

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On our last morning in Palm Springs, we drove with Kathleen, her husband and son to Salvation Mountain, an hour and a half through the desert and past the Salton Sea, a stone’s throw from the Mexican boarder, and Star and I did a photoshoot amongst the colorful rocks in sweltering heat. Amazing place! Still processing the photos from that one.

I adored watching Kathleen and her little Fox, best duo ever!

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I returned Saturday night, and was at Fort Mason Sunday to share a table with Eddie Wright at APE! I sold some books right away, enjoyed running into old friends at their tables, but couldn’t help forming comparisons between the conference and convention. How cool would it be to sit around with your favorite artists at a destination meeting, without having to trying to sell books at the same? There’s a reason why the bars and poolside late-night happenings at Comic-con are the main point of going. As the state of things changes, and sales become less lucrative and connections seem to be more and more about twittering, having face-to-face events seems to be a good direction to go in. Is it possible to make it not be about making money, but about forming personal and creative connections? Maybe it’s just a matter of having a couple days of selling comics to cover the costs, then a day or two of creative talks, lunches and drawing sessions with the goal of getting away from the sales table and genuinely hanging out.

It’s something to consider, as I leave the desert with a handful of new friends and enthusiasm for new projects including website design and drawing a new comic book issue. It’s the blend of life and design, drawing and coding, signing books and meeting new people.

Poolside: Process

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1) I work very loosely at first, draw in blue line on watercolor paper, just trying to get the main shapes down and start putting in color as quickly as possible. 2)Blocking in more color, this is what I call the “ugly phase”, 3) Throw in some ink lines and bolder splashes of color, and suddenly it all snaps together! 4) Finishing out the piece with a few little background details.

Quick rundown of my watercolor process, let me know if you want more!

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