Thursday, December 22, 2016

Seasons Greetings!

The "orange grove" outside my studio

December 1894

The cold lingered on for two days as they all huddled inside for warmth. A clear sky and brilliant sun greeted the third morning, and the temperature rose rapidly to sevety-five degrees.

Tobias and Zech went to the grove and found the trees not green but brown, each already surrounded by piles of fallen dead leaves. Tobias cut into the trunk of one and said, "It ain't dead all the way. They just might make it if it stays warm like this. I just thank the Lord we didn't get no rain and ice with all that cold."

"They'll make it, Pappa. We may never have another cold snap that bad. What I need to do now is replant the garden. There's not a single thing left in there alive, and I sure don't want to go back to eating wild poke two meals a day."

"Poke ain't so bad. We lived off it for years when we had to."

"I know, Pappa. But tomatoes and beans and collards is better. Soon as we get back to the house I'll put out the seeds." 

A month later Tobias came running through the woods, souting as loud as he could. "They done it! They done it!"

Everyone poured out of the cabins and house, and Zech scrambled from the barn and raced to meet his father as he came into the clearing. He said, "What in the world is all the shouting for, Pappa?" 

"The orange trees," Tobias panted, "they're puttin' out sap and new growth! They're goin' to bloom, Zech! They done made it!"

"That's great Pappa! Just great. I knew they'd come through."

"I sure thought for a while it was all gone, but the Lord's done smiled down on us. I got to go now and tell Emma."

Zech stood by Glenda and put his arm around her as they watched the frail body lumber across the clearing towards the small plot of ground bearing the grave.

- Patrick D. Smith : A Land Remembered

After returning home from my honeymoon with my wife, we were greeted with this relatively cold (at least by a Floridian's standards) and bitter Savannah weather, a mix of heavy rain and chilling air that penetrates even the thickest of winter wear. Still, it's nothing compared to the "big chill" Florida experienced back in 1894, when weather was so icy and erratic that many farmers packed up and left without even cleaning their dirty dishes. 

Yet, Tobias and the MacIvey clan pushed through, despite all odds, determined to make the best of a miserable situation, which soon after got decisively worse (but you'll need to read A Land Remembered to learn more about that). Still, we can all stand to learn a thing or two from Tobias's gumption, that even in the bleakest and coldest of times, relying on your family and yourself is what will see you through. 

So during this holiday, be sure to gather your family close and share in the comfort of your well insulated homes, with your central Air and Heat, and remember that those of simpler times did much the same with much less, and went on to do extraordinary things. 

Stay tuned, more great stuff coming soon, including CHARACTER DESIGNS! Look for that and more very soon...

Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Studio Tour

Happy December! Before I take you on a tour of my newly minted studio, I wanted to update everyone following this blog that I am nearing completion on the thumbnails. It's a tedious portion of the graphic novel process, but once completed, I can start sharing with you the more finer points in regards to drawings and storytelling techniques from panel-to-panel. So stick around, because I promise things are about to take off!

So to begin our tour, I'd like to establish the overall setting. I currently live in Savannah, Georgia, known as the first colony of Georgia (though my roots and heart are still firmly planted in Florida). I was born and raised in Gainesville and spent every summer on the beaches of Matanzas Inlet, outside St. Augustine. Gainesville gave me a sense of community, while it was St. Augustine that sparked my love of history and adventure. 

Ultimately, college is what drew me to the city of Savannah, where I attended Savannah College of Art and Design (BFA, Sequential Art, 2009). After college, Savannah continued to inspire me as an artist and I found that I just couldn't escape the city. They say that there's an old legend that says Savannah enchants it's residence to never want to leave it. Far be it for me to dispute legends and folklore (I've moonlighted as a ghost tour guide here for over a decade) but I feel that deep down, Florida will be the place of my final hurrah (very far in the future...hopefully). 

As you enter through the main door, to the right stands my obscenely tall bookshelf. The bookshelf was custom made to house my ridiculously overflowing collection of graphic novels. The novels range from the stereotypical, soap-opera-esque super hero graphic novels put out by Marvel and DC Comics, to the more unique, colorful and thought provoking graphic novels like Craig Thompson's Blankets or Art Spiegelman's MAUS. Truth be told, most of my graphic novel collection consists of graphic adaptations of historical fiction and non-fiction. Some of my favorite titles being Scott Chantler's , Arnie Bellstorf's Baby's in Black, Gene Luen Yang's Boxers & Saints and my friend, Chris Schweizer's Crogan Adventure series. All of these titles I turn for inspiration and guidance on best delivering a tale that is both rich in history and full of adventure, a story designed to capture the attention of the modern readers, while appeasing those of more "traditional" tastes. 

The image to the right is one of my most cherished possessions, my wife's wedding gift to me. A hand held telescope. One of my favorite book series is C.S. Foster's Horatio Hornblower, a swashbuckling series about a young sailor and his adventures in the Royal British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars (also, the inspiration for Star Trek, believe it or not). I received it before our ceremony and used it to actually watch her approach to the island that we got married on (it was a small island in the middle of a Botanical Garden, just to be clear). Kathleen has always supported me fully on all of my crazy adventures, and I'm lucky enough to have her support on this one right now!

While the Goliath of a bookshelf does house solely graphic novels and comics, I've dedicated a smaller David-size bookshelf against the other wall. This bookshelf is filled with all matters pertaining to folklore and history, specifically those in the areas of the South. My first three novels, which were paranormal/supernatural focused, were not without their facts. I made it my own personal mission to make sure that much of my storytelling was backed by some form of historical documentation or reference. Throughout Lost Souls of Savannah, I embarked on collecting historical information about everything pertaining to 1930's Savannah, from the cars, to the buildings and even the proper style of gravestones and use of HooDoo spells. The same level of historical accuracy will be applied to A Land Remembered: The Graphic Novel, to make sure that readers will gain a real accurate history lesson of Florida long lost. 
Beside that bookshelf, sits King Tut. He once belonged to my grandfather, Stan Kuchinski. Stan was a hero in every sense of the word. He was present at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. He went on to serve at almost every major engagement in the Pacific Theater as a Marine of the First Division. My grandfather went on after the war to be a painter...of skyscrapers, and later suffered a severe life changing injury when his scaffolding dropped several floors during a painting job and landed him in a coma for months in the hospital. He survived and lived well into old age. Despite all he suffered, he never gave up his passion and love for the arts. He would paint, sculpt, create and draw throughout his life time and it's from him I like to think that I have gained my creative talents and abilities. 

Next we come to what I like to call the Tech Station. For you computer savvy people out there, you may or may not be familiar with Wacom's Cintiq 22HD. I recently acquired this beauty and added it to my studio arsenal. The Cintiq is one of the largest format tablets, capable of a 2,000 point pressure system that allows me to draw directly onto the screen.

When I was first introduced to the Cintiq, it was the original Cintiq 21UX, which SCAD purchased for use in the Sequential Art Department. At the time, we only had a few, and people would line up to use it. Being the traditionalist, I was rather put off by the idea of drawing on a screen rather than using pen and paper and initially refused to use it. By the end of the year, the department ended up with a whole computer lab full of the 21UXs and before the end of the next year, I had purchased one for myself. At first, I under utilized it, using it only for art correction and coloring. It would be several more years before I became comfortable enough to use it to create a polished art piece from start to finish. To me, it's an invaluable tool, and the forerunner and frontrunner to all the standard artist tablets used today. 

But, A Land Remembered is all about tradition, and success through hardship and drive. With that said, the Cintiq 22HD will be used sparingly for this project, mostly reserved for touch-ups, corrections and toning. The cover, however, will be all digital, but I want the book itself to be purely from hand drawn and inked art, something with a bit more soul. 

The easel is something I've had with me since I was in high school. Back in my teen years I made money as a caricature artist at local festivals, art shows and events and I used this easel for both the practical purpose of storing my supplies and drawing, as well as to vindicate myself as an artist. When I first propped it up I remember feeling elated at how far I had come from drawing in spiral notebooks and on classroom desks. It was a big move up. I guess you could say this easel was to me what the marshtackie, Ishmael was to Tobias and Zech. I couldn't have done my job without it.

As for the picture on the easel, all I can tell you at this point is that this is a portrait of Simon Wiesenthal, the famous German Nazi Hunter. The art is not my own, it was drawn by my friend Jesse Lee, who is collaborating on a comic with me that we'll be pitching on Kickstarter the beginning of next year! Stay tuned for more info on that soon! 

So these two stuffed friends loom large over the studio. The shark is from my father's days as a fish taxidermist. Yes, that's right, my father who I always knew as "Chef Al", who spent 6 months in a French kitchen to become the Master Chef of Gainesville, started off stuffing fish. Now, before you go thinking that's a stuff shark, it's actually a plaster mold of a shark, only the teeth are original. My father grew up in Miami and to make a little cash he worked at a taxidermist that would take the teeth of fish caught and mount them into sculpted replicas. This has hung in EVERY bedroom I've ever slept in all my life, but now hangs just outside my bedroom as the guard of my studio.

The merganser (Murray as we all know him in the family). Is also a gift from my father. The story goes that one day when I was in high school, my father awoke me in the early morning hours and led me to his car. In the trunk was a bushel of stuff birds he had received from a member of the Gainesville Golf and Country Club, where he served as Head Chef. He directed me to put them around the yard, especially near the bird feeders. At first, I didn't understand, but an hour later I awoke again to my mom screaming with excitement. My mother is a member of the Alachua County Audobon Society, and an avid bird watcher. She had assumed the stuff birds were real and immediately set out to snap pictures and call all of her birder friends. Needless to say...once she caught father received quite the smacking. To this day, it's the family's favorite story.

Side note, two years later, I was taking a Florida Flora and Fauna course at Santa Fe College. The professor was an acclaimed environmental biologist of sorts and gave us an assignment to collect and catalog 25 natural Florida species of birds. Well, I can tell you that it's not an easy thing to snap 25 photos of local birds. The night before the finals were due, I only had 24 that I could find in their natural habitats. I was struggling to find a 25th when I looked up at Murray on my wall. I took him outside, covered his base and snapped a photo. I was worried my professor would catch on (just like my mom eventually did), but I received an A for the project!

We come to the last bit of the studio tour, the most important station, which is my drawing table. This is where the majority of my time will be spent for the next year and a half as I develop this book. Currently propped on it, you'll see both a copy of Patrick Smith's novel, the outlines of my adaptation and the thumbnail layouts in progress. To the far right you can also see the side of the signed contract with Pineapple Press, which I keep by me at all times in case I need to be reminded I'm not dreaming and I'm really helming a comic adaptation of A Land Remembered. It can sometimes be a little surreal to be totally honest.

I also keep Batman nearby (specifically Bruce Timm's Batman, another influence to my art style). I remember several of my classmates would keep a picture of Batman warning them of the dangers of procrastination, it's one of the graphic novelist's constant enemies. I've always been afraid of falling by the wayside on a project or not being able to finish what I set out to do. Never have I felt the stakes to be this high before! This isn't a creation of my own, I've been tasked to complete something that has a devoted fanbase, a fanbase I don't want to disappoint.

Far be it for me to not listen to Batman! Time to get back to work. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Greetings folks, 

It's been a few since last we discussed the progress of the book, and I'm going to chock that up to holiday feasting and festivities. It's also largely thanks to the fact that I've been busy setting up my studio. My wife and I moved into our new home back in July and I've been embarrassingly delayed in setting up my studio/office due to a number of set backs (Hurricane Matthew, house repairs and visiting relations). 

All has been moving steadily forward with A Land Remembered: The Graphic Novel, and my aim is the finish these thumbnails before the beginning of the new year, if not sooner. I also want to provide you all with a more detailed look at the MacIvey Clan's character designs. Once 2017 kicks off, we too should be well onto the journey of pencilling out the finalized artwork for the book and laying the groundwork for a fantastic graphical journey across pioneer Florida. 

I'll be taking you all on a tour of my newly minted studios shortly, giving you a detailed look into the artist's layer. I'm just putting the finishing touches on the wall and stocking the bookshelf with my massive collection of books. I hope all of you had a very warm Thanksgiving, enjoying time with your family and friends. There are some exciting times to come, so stay tuned. 

Talk soon,

Thursday, November 10, 2016


It's been a crazy week, but what we're going to focus on is the insanity of thumbnail work. 

So to clarify what a "thumbnail" is. It's essentially the rough draft/layout of what will eventually become a completed comic book page. The goal is to create what the page will look like panel to panel, but it doesn't require anything intricate or detailed. It can even be sloppy and simplistic, but as long as it provides me with the blueprints of what's to come, it serves it's purpose. 

The name "thumbnail" comes from the size of the illustration. Most comic artists draw these loose rough drafts very small, sometimes thumbnail small, thus the name. 

What makes this such a tedious process is that it requires the whole script to be converted into this format before any of the fun stuff can happen. At first, I contemplated skipping this phase and going straight to the actual comic pages, but the problem with that is that you can easily lose sight of the over-all picture and end up with too many pages or not enough pages. Either way, the book suffers. 

Think of it like building a piece of wood furniture. If you don't follow the directions or at the least use a measuring tape, you can end up with a lopsided piece of furniture. 

Below is a run down of the process, from the overall Thumbnail page (which consists of layout boxes for four pages)... page 2 (zoomed in from the larger image)... what the finished artwork looks like based off the thumbnail direction. 

Sadly, I'm still in the early days of completing the thumbnails. It should take me the better half of November to complete, but by December we should be in full swing on working on the finished pencils. 

In other news, I will be appearing at the November 13th Daytona Beach Comic Convention. You can check out my other works, pick up a copy of one of my graphic novels and meet yours truly!  I'd love a chance to hear your thoughts about this blog so far and what you think about the adaptation of A Land Remembered. 

In the meantime, check of a few other selected samples from my ever growing thumbnail pages for the project! 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reference Imagery

In today's post, I'd like to discuss the importance of reference photography. It has always been a major part of my production process and I would go as far to say that it's what separates the amateurs from the professionals in the comic industry.

A common misconception is that comic artists just draw whatever comes to mind. If we need to draw an airplane, we just wave our magic pencil and within minutes create a perfect Boeing 747 without looking at ANYTHING. The truth is, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Illustrators are often very diligent when it comes to practicing their craft, carrying sketchbooks or participating in modeling sessions to flex their creative recall, so to speak. They focus on drawing the world around them from varying perspectives and techniques so that they better understand their subject matter. Any artist who draws Spider-man or Batman, must have a command of the human anatomy, no matter how many muscles they layer on their heroes. So they spend hours studying muscles and human anatomy, almost to the point of rivaling medical students. This gives them a better ability to accurately depict their characters correctly. If they simply relied on mental recall all the time, and drew what they perceived an athletic hero should look like, we could end up with characters that even a 5 year old would raise an eyebrow at. 

Likewise, the creative writer, who spends time developing novels set in a fantasy land with wizards and elves and dwarves, pour over all the resources of medieval Europe, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and historical documentation of the 12th century to make sure that their worlds are as believable as King Arthur's Camelot or Henry the Eighth's Court. 

When delving into something historically driven (especially something of a very specific niche) you have even less wiggle room. An author/artist has to spend hours researching everything from the architecture of the time, to the fashion to even the hairstyles. On the off-shot that you have a historical buff (which is probably 90% of A Land Remembered's fans) is reading and critiquing the historical accuracy. You don't want something to instantly take you out of the story and break the illusion you've set up for your reader. 

Let me give you an example, study this page below from Marvel's Treasure Island, from creative team Roy Thomas and Mario Gully. First, let me start by saying that I'm not criticizing Gully's artistic talents, I enjoyed his work overall and felt it was fitting for this story. However, take a look at the gentleman in the foreground of panels 3, 4 and 10. Notice anything unusual?

You are probably asking yourself: "why does that pirate look like he'd fit in as an overweight, overworked detective of some NYC Police precinct?" Your second thought, if you think like I do, is that he must be some time traveler, but I promise you that Robert Louis Stevenson did not write any such character into his 19th century novel. You won't find any blue boxes or Deloreans in this period piece.

This is not the only visual hiccup in Gully's adaptation. If you pick the book up at your local library or book store, you'll find that there are several instances throughout the book where characters are distinctively dressed in what appears to be modern attire. When you're illustrating a swashbuckling tale for pirate enthusiasts, you can't have your pirates wearing neck ties with a Windsor knot...

So that brings us back to reference imagery. Using reference images, such as historical photos, classic illustrations or wood cuttings from the time period and self-photographed location shots can help give a novel set in the 1860's the right amount of flavor to appease even the most critical historian. 

When I was working on my second book, Lost Souls of Savannah, I poured over several photo books of 1930's Savannah, Georgia to make sure that I got the look of the city down right, and that the buildings I used as backdrops were meticulously period accurate. I remember in one scene, I set the characters in the backdrop of Bonaventure Cemetery, iconic for it's part in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I wanted to use the Bird Girl statue to make the setting more obvious, until I realized that the statue wasn't set in the cemetery until a decade later in my I left it out. 

Facts are EVERYTHING...

So to start the research process off right. I drove out to my local historic preservation, Morningside Nature Center in Gainesville,  and armed with my wife and her camera, proceeded to snap photos of the mid-19th century farm house that sits on the preserved property. 

A Land Remembered begins with Tobias and Zech tromping about their farm in search of hogs, and the scene is set somewhere in the North Florida area, close to Paynes Praire, so honestly, I couldn't image a more ideal location for us to shoot. The trees, flora, house style and wares are all true to that particular period.

Of course, this won't be enough to build a convincing 19th century pioneer home alone, but it'll be the building blocks to my library of photo and illustration references that I'll use throughout production to assure that we create a convincing hammock for the MacIvey Family to thrive in. 

Next week, I'll share with you thumbnails, and no, I'm not talking about the kind on your fingers. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


To begin, I had to share this hysterical/wonderful alternate book cover. Anyone who didn't know anything about the book would assume Patrick Smith was a romance novelist. I actually wish I had this as a huge poster to put in my studio to pull some inspiration from, but I suppose this blog will do for now.

Speaking of covers, above is the cover of the young reader's adaptation. When I first spoke with Pineapple Press about the graphic novel adaptation we discussed the possibility of adapting from this version, which cuts out a lot of the more adult material (chief among them, the love triangle between Zech, Glenda and Tawanda). In the end, I felt going straight to the original source material was the best choice. I definitely want to make it available for younger fans, but I also wanted to draw in the interest of the older fans. 

And below, you'll see an image of how the finished illustration looks and how it is constructed from the script above. 

The first step in creating a graphic novel is to work on a script. Comics are written in a format that enables the artist to visualize the story through separating dialogue from action, so that the imagery of the panels can be discerned separately. Above is a snapshot of a portion of the script for The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet. As you'll see, it's set up similar to a movie script. When I wrote The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet, I developed it straight into this format, so what you're seeing is the infant stage of the graphic novel. 

In the case of A Land Remembered, Patrick Smith saved us the trouble of having to develop a script. Instead, we'll take it straight from the book. The only difference this time around, all I needed to do was cipher through the novel and find the key elements and scenes that would best translate into a comic. I re-organized the story into an outline that would allow me to break each chapter down. Above is the first few chapters (there are 24 in far). 

Next week, I'll discuss reference photos and imagery, and how important it is to know your history BEFORE drawing an image of a person, place or thing in a comic. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Greetings Travelers,

Welcome to the blog, dedicated to my latest graphic novel project, A Land Remembered: The Graphic Novel. It is truly a great honor to be given the reigns to adapt Patrick Smith's novel for the graphic genre and tell the MacIvey family story in a whole new and exciting way.

For those of you not familiar with me and my credentials, my name is Andre R. Frattino, the author and artist behind the Florida-focused paranormal graphic novels, The Reaper of St. George Street, Lost Souls of Savannah and The Vampirate of Matanzas Inlet, all available through Pineapple Press. I have spent the last 5 years dedicated to developing these comics which feature the history and folklore of the state of Florida. I am a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (Sequential Art, 2009) and the University of Florida (Art Education, 2013) where I worked as a contributing cartoonist for the famed Independent Alligator newspaper. I also had the distinct honor of illustrating the promotional art for the 75th Anniversary of The Yearling, on behalf of the 
Marjorie Rawling Foundation.

As a fan of Patrick Smith's novel (as well as a proud Floridian myself), I admire the way he captivated the flavor and beauty of the Sunshine State through his attention to detail. Historical fiction can be a tricky genre to master as an author (and an artist). If even the slightest detail is off it can take a reader out of the story. Fortunately, Smith was able to carve out a world that is vivid and exciting, giving us a glimpse into a land that many Floridians today can't even imagine.

That's the challenge I seek to take on. Presenting this story to a generation that has forgotten what the state of Florida once was, and could still be today. Many young readers rely on and enjoy graphic novels and comics, it's the latest generation's major outlet for literature. There are graphic novels on nearly every subject you can imagine, from adaptations of the Bible, to classic literature like Moby Dick, to graphic novels focusing on the events of the Civil Rights Movement. In this day and age, graphic novels and comics are far more than just stories of men and women in masks and capes. And for a book founded on generational evolution, the next inevitable step is for it to cross over into the sequential medium.

Over the course of the next year and a half, I will be working tirelessly to complete this novel, and will document the development every step of the way, granting you a glimpse into the graphic novelist's process. From reference photography, to thumbnails, to finished illustrated pages. I hope you enjoy the process and as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comment sections below.

So without further adieu, let us travel backwards in time and pioneer across swamps and prairies alongside Tobias, Emma and Zech as they journey across parts unknown in search of a land to remember.

Andre R. Frattino