Perseverance and “Grit”

This is a lovely, short but sweet TED talk given by Angela Lee Duckworth about the value of “grit” in success:

Personally, I couldn’t agree with Angela more. My step-mother teaches Gifted and Talented in elementary school and if there is anything I have learned over the years through watching her and her students and learning, it is that gifts and talent help, but they are not determinations of success. Perseverance determines success. The ability to hear “no” and keep going until it becomes a “yes”. People with high IQs often fail while people with low IQs often succeed, because it has less to do with intelligence or race or wealth and more to do with the determination and the will to succeed.

Angela’s talk is inspiring and a needed reminder. I have not had anything published in about seven years, but that doesn’t mean I am not producing. Every day I wake up and I make something. Every day, I produce a little more. Every day it actually gets a bit easier. I draw and I write and I hone my skills, and I persevere.

I still worry about the bills and keeping a roof over my head. I have turned down many many well paying jobs because I would not have had the time to create my own works, and so I have stuck to less well paying temp work instead.

Why? Because I still believe. I believe in myself. I believe in my work. I have faith as well that we each have a special path in life. But I also still believe that eventually perseverance will pay off, and I see the result: every day my art gets a little bit better. Every day, I write a little more easily. And some day, all those will culminate into what I believe will be many good things that people are willing to pay to see and read.

The point is, don’t ever give up, because it’s is the people who don’t give up that eventually succeed.


The Tale of The Lonely King and The Moon White Cat

The Tale of the Lonely King and the Moon White Cat
by R. LaFille

Once upon a time there was a King with seven sons and one daughter. Now the king had grown old with age and was lonely, for his wife had long since passed away, so he called to him his sons and his daughter and he said to them, “Soon, I must choose an heir, but I wish first to take me a wife, for while I miss your mother, the Queen, dearly, an old man cannot live the rest of his life alone. The one of you to bring back a lady suitable for me to marry, I shall give you my throne. I grant you six months to present each to me a lady and myself six months to pick the one I will marry. The one who presents the Lady whom I choose, I shall give my throne.” So saying, he sent his sons and daughter away and returned to his duties as King.

Immediately the seven sons called for their finest clothes and their grandest, most impressive horse, and as much gold as they could carry upon their person, and they set out, each in a different direction: North, South, East and West as well as the non-cardinal directions except for Southwest, for all knew that the lands of the North were of great cities and regal queens, and that the Eastern lands were rich with silks and spices, while in the South dwelt ladies of dark and exotic tastes, and in the West was the ocean and tropical island nations. But to the Southwest was only more of their own country, a land of farmland and farmers, of farmers’ sons and farmers’ daughters and little else.

Now the King’s daughter had been born upon her mother’s deathbed and so had known only her father her whole life, she who had laid her dark silken head on his knee and told to him all the wondrous tales from the books her nurse had read her and later the ones she had made up in her own head, for she loved her father dearly, and she worried that her brothers could not possibly know her father nearly as well as she nor find him a woman worthy of his affections.

Knowing her father would not approve of her setting out on her own—for he also guarded her dearly—she stole the clothes of a serving woman off the drying lines in the washroom, dressed herself in this simple habit, and left the castle unnoticed, traveling on foot and carrying nothing but a purse with a few pennies for water and bread.

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Staying the Course

Hi Rivkah,

I just want to tell you my appreciation that you are still active in your art and comic making. You came into my mind today as I was thinking of getting back into comic book making and how much i loved reading your blog and looking at your sketches. Ever since the first few posts :)

Your art always blew me away and encouraged me to do my own, as a woman and fellow american attempting to making it into the manga world. Your level of detail and emotion is beyond that of any OEL manga creator and I loved reading Steady Beat over and over. The words or the artwork always kept me coming back for more. I’ve seen so many wonderful artists stop what they do and never pick it up again, and today it was hitting me a bit hard. Then I remembered you and was so happy to see you still active online :)

I look forward to reading more posts and purchasing what future books you release. I’ll always be a fan of the woman who was (and always will be) one of my major role models as I thought about starting out into the art world.

Thanks for being awesome :)
-Emily Paige


Dear Miss Emily Paige,

I, too, feel that pang in my gut every time a talented artist lies down her pen and turns to a safer, more secure routine. I love girls’ comics. It’s why I write them, because I wish to see more of them, and every one of us that lay down our pens and retire is at least one less book I’ll ever get to read.

Though neither can I blame the artist who desires a life where neither pride nor hunger hangs always at the end of a tenuous red thread. The life of an artist is the life of an entrepreneur, the mode of the explorer, seeking out territory not yet tread. Yet, in the excitement of exploration there is always danger waiting in the shadows of the promise of jeweled islands and starlit moutains, ready at any moment to spear her, and pin her and roast her whole. The explorations of an artist is rarely ever without hardship, strife, or self-doubt.

Staying the course and resisting the temptation to turn back will be the most difficult task any artist, any creative entrepreneur, will ever tackle because it isn’t just one storm you will cross getting to shore but fury upon fury, often sweeping you further out to sea and drastically off course. But once sail is set, what can you do but sight once more along the stars, adjust your route, and continue to your destination? For found along the side of that path is purpose, and there is no greater wealth than the knowledge that we have achieved our place in life, our part in the construction of the universe.

Perhaps it does not help girls’ comics cartoonists that there are no publishers who specialize in creating the kind of content you enjoyed in my own work. Girls’ comics have few financiers for this voyage. DC tried it with Minx, but that line suffered an early death. Minx failed because of a product that needed to be not a hair shy of spectacular in order to succeed. We seek to create a new audience, and in order to create new audiences in any medium, you must first present a product that can be neither denied nor ignored. For me, the Minx product was easily ignored, easily denied. It neither shone nor sparkled nor blinded the eyes in the way it needed to gain new readers not previously acquainted with the comics medium.

Comics could use a publisher that focuses singly on comics specializing in a female audience with a staff that understands and loves their genre; comics with kickass girl protagonists. But this publisher must first have a spearhead that is so undeniably well written and beautifully drawn and perfectly packaged that even those who are not initially drawn to the genre cannot deny its greatness and appeal. Scholastic has published a few of these (Raina Telgemeier is undeniably one of these girls’ greats), but outside of that, what have publishers offered that reaches beyond the boundaries of the already-existing comics market?

The answer, currently, has lain with Kickstarter, and here, I believe, lies proof that girls’ comics could truly succeed. Look at Aaron Diaz’s “The Tomorrow Girl”, Michelle Czajkowski “Ava’s Demon”, Takashi Miyazawa’s and Jonathan Coulton’s “The Princess Who Saved Herself“, Ashley Cope’s “Unsounded”, Renae DeLiz’s “Peter Pan”, and Jamal Igle’s “Molly Danger”. Jamal Igle wrote an incredibly moving essay on his Kickstarter page about the need for comics for young girls, and it’s one any artist who has felt the frustrations of trying to break into the girls’ comics market (break into? how about create?) could do well to read: every heartfelt word, every line and page. But beyond that, each of these artists have funded their girls’ works purely by word-of-mouth, and spectacularly so. How much further they could reach with the distribution of a publisher and a thoughtful, powerful marketing effort behind it!

So thank you, Emily, for such beautiful, encouraging words. Because even though I have kept my eyes always on my treasures, I too have felt the doubts that gnaw at the back of my head and stir in the shadows of my heart.

The life of an explorer is never secure. Far too many turn the sheets of their sails to the placid harbors of familiar shores. No sailor is guaranteed treasure, only the dream of it. Yet it is that dream of pearls that pulls us ever forward to a destination far from the safety and the security of port.


Levels of Detail

I have never been much of a videogame player, but the games I have enjoyed have all shared one thing in common: the quality of exploration and discovery. Secret drawers to unlock. Filing cabinets through which to sift. Boxes and desks to be moved to discover what’s beneath or the hidden door behind them. Dusty attics and moldy basements are my playground. Once, in the early months of my move to New York, deskless and bedless, I acquired an ancient teacher’s desk from the basement of a Catholic school to add to my then-empty room, and upon opening and cleaning the drawers, I discovered magic: Yellowed handwritten letters in a spidery, illegible scrawl. Dusty pins with the Virgin Mary embossed upon them. Stamps from Longe Agoe. The discovery of objects was almost more of a treasure than the desk itself, and when eventually the desk was handed off to a neighbor, I tucked inside the crumbling letters and pins for the next curious explorer to unearth.

So what is it within us that is so clearly drawn to this feeling of discovery? For the natural storyteller, the answer must be obvious: objects are the bearers of stories. Within each object is a hidden tale, and objects separated from their owners inbibe a certain magical quality all their own. What was once a whole story must now be constructed from partial cloth, and where there are gaps to be filled with the imagination of the storyteller (or the reader, now become the storyteller’s sleuth), those options are only as limited as our capacity to think. The infinite is possible.

In the stories I have been currently drawing, I have spent perhaps a ridiculous amount of time on clutter, clothes, and an attention to background detail that I think would drive most people to insanity. Because for me, every half-open drawer, every stitch of scrollwork on a boot, every random scrap of paper must have a story, or it has no place in MY story. Every Objecte is a story within a story, sometimes within another story, and while the reader may not be aware of the layers, the specifics, the history of every object or the hands it has passed through, I am, and it creates a world for me that is more real, more alive than it would be if I just placed random objects in a room without thought or drew from a photo or a hat. Everything comes from within.

This is the reason, too, why I generally prefer writing comics to prose (but not always!). Being visual, I can tell a primary story through dialog and a secondary story through visual narrative. But then there’s the tertiary tales: the frames within frames. It turns every page into a unique treasure-hunt  full of discovery and wonder. Some of my favorite books as a child were the Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. Her lush cutaway illustrations of tree-stump mouse mansions, murky underground mazes, and glittering ice castles left me enchanted and entranced. For in the stitching of every sack of flour, in the icing of every cake, were drawn minute details that the casual observer could not catch until they leaned closer, nose practically to her sepia and yellow-pink page, and peered deep within the story. And every single item had a story and a history of its own.

The objects in our homes, on the streets, in our workplaces, in our restaurantes … they did not just magically come to be. They were placed there by somebody at some point in time, influencing the lives around them. It is through these levels of visual narrative that the storyteller is able to not only bring the story to life, but bring the WORLD to life so that it’s practically sitting in your living room and whispering like an old friend in your ear.



In the Studio

There’s a little birdy in my new studio, and it’s singing songs of late hours over coffee, the creak of the chair, the slamming of desk drawers as I search for a new pen, the flutter of thoughts and dreams and hopes scratched hurredly across blue-lined notebook paper.

These last four years in New York–first in Brooklyn, now in Manhattan–have been saturated with self-determination, a desire to test myself and my vision, and no matter what paths I’ve taken, always I have clasped in my right hand the dream that moves me on. Every day, I have taken out my pen and worked a little on my book(s) or my art. Every day, I spend at least a moment thinking of other worlds, worlds created in my head for the pleasure of myself and others, for while our dreams are never truly lost, they may drift further and further away so that we have to cast a wider and wider net just to reach them again, so I keep my dreams always close at hand.

I believe in myself, and I believe in my work, and the fortitude is finally starting to pay off. I have a studio now, with a door and a key and nobody can enter but me. Onlookers may peek curiously through the glass, but I can create in my fishbowl now untouched. And I love it. Back to work. Back to my comics.

Not that I ever really stopped in the first place. Just quietly, diligently toiling away, every day.


Happy Day!

In light of Tokyopop’s demise, here’s some art from the book I’ve been busting my ass on for the last six months while juggling a full-time job. Slow goin’ but I’m getting permanent part time on May 2nd at the PR firm I’ve been working at, and in the afternoons and evening, I’ll now be working out of a brand spankin’ new studio, and then it’s just inks and colors from here on out, baby!


WIPs and a Non-Rant Day.

So, crazy political/free speech rants for the last few weeks aside, and the heat back on in our apartment (fingers crossed) while we pull together a lawsuit with the neighbors in case this ever happens again, and one more temp job complete, I’m back to work on comics again. I gave up trying to pencil my characters on the computer, and instead printed out my backgrounds in cyan ink on 28×44 cm bristol board (I’ve stopped using inches; it’s just easier to do my ratio math with the metric system), and am penciling right on top. I’ll then ink on top of THAT and just erase what pencil remains. The blue will still scan out.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! But I’m excited about this. :) There isn’t a lot of action/movement in the first chapter, but I tried to keep it dynamic through expressive backgrounds and really pushing the camera so that the “talking head” scenes don’t become static. Actually, I’m really partial to the scenes between Jane and her father. She hasn’t seen him in about six years, and she doesn’t know how to act around him, so she spends a lot of time trying NOT to look at him … so when she does, it’s always a bit of a shock. I’m particularly fond of the fourth panel on that second page when she’s startled into looking up at him, and just the vulnerability in her eyes … <3 I sort of choke up whenever I’m going through these pages and see that panel. I feel so sad for Jane; she wants to connect with her dad, but she doesn’t know the right moves to make. Like any middle-schooler, she’s trying desperately to find her place in the world without looking like she’s as lost or confused as she really feels. And she’s not doing a very good job at it!

I also finished the thumbnails for the next chapter. This IS a sci-fi/fantasy story, but all the pretty stuff doesn’t really happen until chapter 2. :)

I can’t wait to start inking! And then coloring; it’s so different thinking in color instead of black and white, and I’m starting to find there’s a lot more I can do with storytelling when I think in color; you can show things off-camera by changing lighting and colors that you couldn’t otherwise, and you can really affect the mood. Plus, it means I can’t draw so much detail which is GREAT for me, because I’m a detail freak, and it’s why all the half-finished comics drowned at my mom’s house (they had a flood) were never completed.

Now just to figure out what the heck I’m going to ink WITH. I started out thinking of a Guy Davis approach; all rough, nearly sketchy and thick nib lines, but I may go with something more ligne claire; I think it’s more forgiving to color. Or I could go even more drastic than that and just to freakin’ pencil lines like they do in The Triplets of Belleville. Did you hear that director just made a new movie? L’illusionniste. I desperately want to see it. It’s out!

Now, for your viewing pleasure, art-in-progress. Hopefully next time I’m here, I’ll have inks!!!

One of those planes is a Demoiselle by Alberto Santos-Dumont, btw, and the world’s first series production airplane. I’ve been reading Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It’s one of the most beautiful books ever written about aviation. But Antoine flew something more like that other plane which is a DH50 biplane, at least, early in his career.

Btw, if you haven’t bought or read Joann Sfar’s adaptation of Le Petit Prince yet, you better. It’s simple and beautiful and perfect in only a way that Sfar can make it.


Movement of the Body

I was looking for dancers and acrobats to study body motion in the shoulders while I’m in bed, sick, and can’t draw, and I stumbled across this FANTASTIC hi-def video online of Italian trapeze artist,  Martina Nova:

I love how much the trapeze artist moves, both slowly and quick, and her muscles are so well defined yet not over-developed, that paired with Anatomy for the Artist (NOT the near-useless Jeno Barsay one!), I can pause and look at all the different muscles. Perfect reference for when you can draw all the bones and muscles and tendons strait on and from the side by heart but want a better understanding of how everything interacts in motion. I have a lot of difficulty with hips and shoulders at certain angles, and those are two of the things that change the most in the video.

Oh, and go to the youtube page to watch in hi-def. Another reason it’s worth watching. :)

There’s a website as well: Spectacular artist!