Catching up, life, media and how I got the nickname Donut

Last I wrote here, I was preparing for my first day of pastry school. I was a little nervous, mostly at the prospect of failing at something I truly loved doing. The apprenticeship program for baking takes two years of school and condenses it into six months of training, partially because they expect you to have learned a lot from your work experience. I was enrolled in my first year training and it went great. In fact as I write this, I’m just eight days away from entering my second and third year training. That was eight months ago, so why the silence?

Well it was my plan to post once a week on what was happening with school, with lots of pictures and details into the inner workings of professional baking. The only problem was, I kind of got burnt out telling friends and family about school and I was posting stuff on instagram, so I was just going to do a big post at the end. Then the condensed nature of the course combined with a couple of real life things got the better of me. I got married, secret married, which we didn’t keep the secret for very long. One of my best ad dearest friends got married as well and since it was a real wedding it required more effort and organization.

I had tons of ideas for posts, but I was determined not to post anything until I’d actually said something about school. Only I didn’t know what to say, it had been so long. I was going to say something before Twenty-Four Hour Comic Book Day, but then because everything was so hectic in October I decided to do Inktober and Drawlloween instead. I did a few more drawing challenges, one was even Dungeons and Dragons themed, which might have made me look a bit obsessed if you didn’t know it was a themed challenge. They were simple enough, plus to participate I didn’t have to do the one thing I’d been avoiding for months and that was opening my laptop.

Some day I’ll look back and 2016 and I’ll laugh, because for me personally it was a pretty good year. This was the first time since my divorce in 2012 that I’d stabilized myself financially, I went back to school, I got married to the most amazing man I could ever imagine and other than blogging more frequently I kept most of my resolutions, however, there were a lot of horrible things that happened too. The American election caused me so much anxiety that I couldn’t bring myself to open my computer. I did everything from my cell phone and was able to keep informed, but stay away from most of negativity that seemed to be infecting the internet masses. All in all, the whole thing made me very happy to be a Canadian. Now that all of the election garbage is over (there doesn’t seem to be as much coverage now that the worst has come) it feels like I can open the computer without a barrage of internet bile filling the screen.

So here I am days from going back to school again without having really said anything about my first year. I think that I can sum up my first year of school in one story, the nickname story. From what I remember it was the second or third day of class that we put on our uniforms for the first time and got to go into our lab kitchen. We learned about and got a quick demo about each station were were going to be using over the next two months; this was all review for me except for the doughnut station. So when we got to the hopper and deep fryer, I jumped at the opportunity try out the new equipment. We made a batch of cake doughnuts that turned out really nice, but it was interrupted by an orientation that all apprentices had to attend.

On the advice of our teacher, we brought the doughnuts to the auditorium to feed the rest of our schoolmates. So along with two other classmates, I carried the tray of doughnuts through the pouring rain. For the most part they were shielded by notebooks, so they didn’t get too wet. They turned out to be a huge success and everyone ended up loving them…except for the three people that we missed, the guys from the apprenticeship board. And boy did they know that we forgot to give them their doughnuts.

Every question I asked during the assembly was met with ‘will you give us a doughnut if we answer?’, since I’d sort of made myself the ringleader of the doughnut tray. Seven weeks later everyone was getting ready for their exams and the apprenticeship board guys were back. As I was passing the gymnasium on my way to the train I ran into one of apprenticeship board members and he asked if we were bringing any doughnuts, I told him we weren’t but I could bring some if they wanted. Instead, he told me to make sure I passed my exam.

On test day the board members gave us our instructions which mainly included under no circumstances can you bring a cell phone into the exam, and of course I was grilled about not bringing doughnuts.We proceeded to the exam, which was one of the harder tests I’ve ever taken since it didn’t involve a whole lot of what we learned in school, instead more so on what we would have learned at work. As I handed my paper in one of the board members asked, “How’d the test go Donut?” to which I responded, “Pretty good.” And we decided that Donut (I like the american spelling better because it looks cuter…at least for a nickname) was a pretty good nickname. I like donuts, they’re cute, tasty and just a little bit bad for you. Plus it could have been a lot worse, I could have gotten the all popular cinnamon bun, which after years of making them is my least favourite of the baked goods. Seriously, I get really frustrated when someone or something is referred to as a cinnamon bun too good for this world. In the grand scheme of baking cinnamon buns are low brow and don’t require any real skill, doughnuts are high tech compared to cinnamon buns. Plus I think they’re gross, cheese buns on the other hand are a work of art.

So there’s school in a nutshell, not the most interesting of stories, but the experience was well worth my while and now that that’s out there, maybe I’ll get back to posting more than once every eight months.

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On Team 12 or how to break your brain with comic books

The following is a somewhat disjointed and long winded take on my wonderful failure of a comic and the long road that brought me here.

As I mentioned in my previous post my boyfriend and I had a booth at the 2015 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and that my original plan was to have a table of baked goods. Needless to say that didn’t quite work out and I ended up producing a comic instead. I thought it would be easy, I’ve made comics in the past, I’ve finished Twenty-Four Hour Comic Book Day three years in a row.

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The thing with Twenty Four Hour Comic Day is that it’s all very spur of the moment and whatever you produce has to be in the moment and final. You don’t get the opportunity to go back and change things, whatever goes on the page, stays on the page. There’s no room to edit or expand on your ideas. You’re supposed to go in blind and pull the pages from your head and hand. It’s a great exercise, but it’s not exactly the way writing and drawing a comic works. You don’t get a lot of time, so you lose detail. When you’re artistically challenged like me, everything sort of turns into a blob. Faces become caricatures, arms and legs become too long and hands become stumps.

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to find the best way to talk about Team 12, this strange little idea that’s been swimming around my head for over a decade. You ever have an idea that sits at the back at your mind occasionally popping into the forefront of your thoughts and derailing whatever you’re working on? No? Well that’s what Team 12 is for me.

I think in the long, long ago the seeds for Team 12 were first planted in the form of some poorly written, but well reviewed Digimon fanfiction. From what I remember (this might be a little hazy, as this was well over fifteen years ago) I got tired of the constraints of fanfiction and ended up transplanting all of the original characters from the fanfiction into an original setting and it sort of evolved from there.

At first it was an homage to my favourite movie AKIRA and my favourite comic series The Authority. It was about a group of twelve gifted children that were one day experimented on and trained to become deadly assassins. Eventually they escaped their handlers and reintegrated themselves into the lives they had been ripped from. The whole thing moved at a snails pace, chronicling each year from the protagonists life. I got to the part where the kids escaped and made it back into the real world, when it started to fall apart and turned into a bit of a soap opera. Back then, and maybe now, when posting original stuff online the best way to keep readers was to make sure that there was lots of drama and a healthy dose of slash never hurt either. I think the team made it into adulthood or maybe even teenagehood before the whole thing imploded and I gave up.

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Five years later I’d refined the story a little, converted my prose into a script and started drawing. The setting became an idealistic utopia, torn apart by an attack by a man with superhuman abilities. The focus was changed from their training period and teenage years to the after the attack, with the occasional flashback thrown in for explanation. As I’ve mentioned before and will again and again, I’m not a great artist, but as pitiful as what I put out now, it’s light years ahead of what I used to do. I used the sims as reference material, which just makes the whole thing hilarious. I worked in print at the time and was actually create a really nice copy of it, nice production values at least.

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Unfortunately on the inside it looked like the above image. My art wasn’t the only problem, I introduced too much too fast.Each character was given an introduction page, some even cramming in twelve panels. I’d also made the mistake of drawing out each panel individually without any idea of where it would fit on the page, which lead to a a bunch of different spacing issues. The whole thing was a mess and I shelved it. It looked so horrible I never wanted to draw again.

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But as it always does, it bit me again and I found myself redrawing everything and it didn’t look as awful and that was enough to keep me going. I had a sense of improvement and a couple of pads of comic paper and I was good to go. I decided to focus on fewer characters, all twelve would still be there, but they’d be introduced slowly and some might not be forefront in the first arc. There was a lot more focus on world building and developing the three characters the first arc was going to be focused on. Over all, it was a lot more consistent made more sense and looked a hell of a lot better.

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Still, it was too condensed, quite cluttered and didn’t have any establishing shots. There’s a lot of dialogue and no matter how many times I redo that first issue, there’s always going to be a lot of dialogue. A lot of the dialogue came after the issue had been drawn and there was no way I could fit everything into the pages I had drawn. So I did insert pages and by the time I started doing those pages I was well into issue two and my style had changed a little and those insert pages didn’t look a whole lot like the issue they were being inserted into.

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At the time of my second attempt I was working at the worlds most dysfunctional print shop and actually scanned, fixed up the inks, coloured and inserted dialogue while I was supposed to be working (it was one of those jobs where when there was nothing to do, you pretended to be doing something or worked on personal projects. It was better to look busy than do nothing and there was a lot of down time at that place). As of writing this, the second attempt is the furthest I’ve ever gotten on the project with two issues completed and a third drawn.

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Then my life completely fell apart and that second attempt still really reminds me of that. Part of why I’d immersed my self in the project so deeply was to avoid some serious problems I was having. The way all of that imploded, still makes attempt two hard to look at. Despite the fact that after the fallout I’d plotted out the first arc, I put the whole thing away and I didn’t know if I wanted to touch it again.

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A couple of years passed and I changed careers, I didn’t draw so much but I still participated in twenty four hour comic book day. I tried not to think of my little comic and kept myself busy enough not to think about it. Then the 2015 Calgary Expo happened, my boyfriend and me had a table and because starting a food based business takes more money than I had time to save up for, I decided that I could make a comic in less than a month.

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After all, I’d done Twenty Four Hour Comic Day three years in a row and I’d drawn that first issue twice before. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything. It didn’t take long to do the inks and pencils and as sad as it was, it was the best thing I had ever drawn. Within two weeks I had a detailed comic that actually made sequential sense and at the time I thought it looked great.

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Then the problems started. All I needed to do was get the thing scanned, touch up my lines, shade and add my dialogue. It should have only taken a week; from what I could remember from my previous attempts a week was more than enough time. Only I was forgetting that I did most of my previous attempts while pretending to work and looking at the dates on my files, it took a lot longer than a week.

I lost a day when I took it to be scanned and UPS not only was it scanned at the wrong dpi and and in B&W instead of greyscale, but the glass was dirty as well. I ended up calling in a favour from a friend to get the job done properly. Shading took way longer than I thought, photoshop crashed and the files that were open became corrupt and unusable. I had to start all over again and now I was a week behind.

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I stopped sleeping. It was not longer twenty-four hour comic day or even forty-eight hour comic book day. I was staying awake for seventy-two hours at a time. Not only was a hazard to myself and everyone around me, but I was hindered in every way possible. I was making mistakes at work and home. I was living and breathing my comic. What little sleep I got was spent worrying about finishing.

After a few snafu’s with trying to put the dialogue in, only finishing after my boyfriend offered to drop it in with a superior knowledge of illustrator, I was finished and with less than a day to get it printed. Despite the fact that it didn’t look great, I got a 100 copies printed. This was partly because after my last go at twenty-four comic book day I’d gotten a couple of messages requesting a printed copy. So I took the chance and brought my finished comic to the Expo.

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After four days I sold one copy. Other than a few close friends, I couldn’t give it away for free. I couldn’t even get my family to read it. Even though I put on a tough face, it got me down and it took me a couple of weeks to recover from everything. I tried not to let it get me down, but it was hard and a little heartbreaking. I’d put everything I had into attempt three and it completely failed.

So here we are a month after the fact and there’s a box or comics sitting in my office, but I think I’m okay with it. I’m still proud of what I achieved and while it might not be the best looking comics or, hell, the worst looking thing out there. I achieved a lot in a short period of time and it’s the most complete attempt at my vision. It’s the only version I can look at and not feel a whole lot of shame. It’s certainly not the best comic, but it’s mine and for the most part, I did it on my own.

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