Monday, November 29, 2010

On Self Publishing: Joanah Tinio-Calingo

The following is the first in a series of email interviews with some recently acquired contacts in the komiks community. If you'd like to share your own story, or just be a contact, please email me at

And the first article comes from frequent commenter on the blog Joanah Tinio-Calingo!

       I’m Joanah Tinio-Calingo.  I’m a freelance Illustrator, art workshop facilitator, and housewife.  I’m also a member of the Point Zero indie comic group, and have been doing my comic, Cresci Prophecies (a hard-bound photocopied book), for 11 years now.  I’ve also worked on other personal comic projects namely D-koi Junkie (comic strips that came out in Manila Times), Empress 9, Curtains For Hire and I’m currently co-writing KANTO Inc.

      My college friends and I decided to make our indie anthology, after being inspired by the black and white charm of manga.  We thought it was doable.

      We planned to distribute our comic within the college.  And since we don’t have a big budget, we opted for photocopy prints.  We only planned small scale, so a few copies would be just right for us.  But that plan didn’t push through since we were all busy back then.

     I met my current group (Point Zero) a few years later (also in UPCFA).  They were already into photocopying their own comics, and they also sell their stuff during FA week.  I thought, it was about time I tried sharing the story I’ve been working on for years.  So I did, even if I only sold one the first time I released it. ^_^;

     I continued making my second issue after that, and I began giving it away to close friends.

     After that, I met a group of anime shop owners in Katipunan who were willing to distribute my comics.  Soon after, people were looking for it.  So I continued delivering my comics there.  Another comic shop, also in Katipunan, offered to distribute indies, so I took the chance.  The location of the two shops were very close to Ateneo and Miriam College, so I was lucky the two shops were there.

      The big opportunity came when Culture Crash decided to have indie booths in their event.  I grabbed the chance and tried selling my comics to a wider audience.   From there on,  I continued distributing my comics whenever and wherever possible.

    I think what you need to get into comic making, whether you’re just doing it on the side or doing it as a profession, is Patience.  Making comics is taxing even if you’re just doing it as a hobby.  It’s easy to get lazy if you’re not committed to your project or have no intention to finish it.  It’s labor intensive.  If you don’t have the time, have the patience and you’ll eventually finish it whenever you get the chance to sit on it.

       For me, you don’t need to be as good as Jim Lee or Clamp to actually decide to come out with your own comic.  Even if you can only draw stick figures,  as long as you know how to tell a story, you can make a comic. 

       I picked up storytelling techniques by reading books, observing how some of my favorite movies worked by analyzing why I liked it.  And why the visuals worked with the story.   I read novels, and I have a lot of graphic novels in my collection.  I also watch indie films, specially animated shorts.  I also have art books of some animated films, and I read about how they came up with the concepts and the final look of the films they worked on.

     If you’re worried about your drawing skill, you can get all the practice you want once you start making you own comic, even just by doing drafts.  Making the characters consistent in every page would force you to draw over and over.  I sucked at drawing when I made my first chapters, but I got my discipline and practice after doing an animated short (in college), and while doing my comic.  I experimented with halftones, and since I’m quite adept with pencils and other traditional dry media, I tried using it for my comic.  Testing out the limits of the photocopy machine helped me a lot in finding the right technique for my comic.

    Of course what you learn from others and what you pick up from art school would really help you grow.  But mind you, drawing with live models and thinking up poses to match your story without one requires a different kind of discipline.  I’m still learning from a lot of artists about new ways and new techniques to make drawing a little bit faster.

    Like any other person, I have mood swings, and I also experience burnouts.  I figured how to get around it by doing other things that would, in the end, still contribute to finishing my comic project. Like watching TV, listening to music, reading novels and other comic books, and writing.  It helps me jumpstart.

    When I work on a comic project, I usually start with a script.  It’s divided into 3 parts; setting, scene, and then the dialogues.  I do the comic breakdowns when working on the comic drafts.

     I do my rough drafts and layouts in drawing books (the type you can buy in book stores).  Normally I would work on 2 chapters worth of drafts before making the actual comic.

     I use pre-cut vellum, and draw my comic close to the actual size.  Drawing in actual size is part of coping with my mood swings.  But I practice doing detail work on small spaces by drawing detailed mini-sketches.

     After doing all the pencils, I scan all my pages for archiving, and for text fitting.  I crawl my way to finishing my inks, by working on at least 3 spreads simultaneously.  Doing that gives me the feeling that I’m getting closer to finishing.

   After the inks, I stick the text and SFX on the original art with tape (the text is printed out, done in Photoshop).  Then I have it flattened via the photocopy machine.   I had a bad experience scanning my lineart so I have it photocopied instead to preserve its sharpness.  After copying, I shade in the shadows using a special type of crayon, and colored pencils.  I photocopy that again, and let the machine interpret my grays for me.

   I cut up the pages to prepare the Sigs (signatures, 4 pages back to back).  Then I make a dummy comic book to arrange the comic pages in sig form and tape the actual pages in 2s.  After the preps, I bring it to the photocopy shop to have the Master copies done.

  When making the book (compilation) I divide the individual chapters of the books into mini-books or sets.  After combining the sets, I have it stitch bound (hardbound) in the shop.  I wrap the books after fitting the covers to each book.  Binding jobs could be unpredictable and inconsistent so it’s unavoidable for me.  It’s a very tedious process.

  I sell my books in Comic Odyssey.  Other than that, I only sell my comic during events, and via pick-up orders.  I do my promotions and get orders online,  mostly via Deviantart and Facebook.  Sometimes, I get new readers via other readers who borrowed their copies from them.

     Sometimes I make comic merchandise in forms of key chains and whatever I could think of.

  One of the things newbies have to overcome is Shyness.  You’re gonna have to get out of your cave and sell your story.  I know some artists who think they’re not good enough, but aren’t practicing.  So how are you going to get good at it if you don’t test the waters right?  It’s better to find out what you’re doing wrong after you try it.  Believe me, when people get to read your stuff and like it, you’ll be really excited to work on the next, and all the effort will be worth it. And before you know it, you’ve made enough issues to release your first volume!

   If you’re awfully shy to go solo, you could join a group.  You can learn a lot from your group, and you can help each other promote your comics.

 Another one is BUDGET.  You need to dish out funds.  But you don’t really need thousands to come up with one issue.  All you need is a few hundred bucks to invest in materials, master copy production, and the copies to sell.   The earnings you will get from the sales will be the funds for the next release.  On the safe side, you should have a day job or some other source of income to fund your comic.

  Build your resources and find good suppliers, canvass for the best service at the most affordable price. I got rejected by photocopy shops by having comics that are too dark, and Kanto Inc. was also rejected to be printed in RISO for the same reason.   It’s good to find shops that would be more considerate.

  Distribution is a big problem, even for those who want to go into mainstream.  But if you have connections, even your neighboring coffee shop or sari-sari store, take the risk to ask them if they can distribute your work for you.  And sniff around for comic shops who are willing to sell indies and never hesitate to participate in conventions.

You can check out Joanah Tinio-Calingo's DeviantART here

NB! Joanah just edited the article to make a few points clearer. Thanks Joanah!

No comments:

Post a Comment