Logbook

On Journaling --September 8th 2022--

I learned to write at a rather early age: my parents still have a few of their books unfortunate enough to have found themselves under the tip of my sharpie- I distincltly remember writing my name all over dad's Carlos Castaneda essay, which to this day has its cover replaced with parchment paper and a whimsical doodle in place of the title.💧
Since then, I've been writing about myself to myself for pretty much my entire life. Journaling, and by extention all stationery related to journals, has always been my passion; it's incredible how I am not able to come up with a convincing fictional story to save my life (I'm talking comicbook worthy, worldbuilding doesn't count!), but I could fill up pages and pages of prose when it comes to recording all the rambling I have in my head. And for many, journaling is exactly that: tidying up thoughts.

During my elementary school years all my classmates had a secret diary, its secrecy being some kind of joke since we frequently talked about them, but most of us had enough common sense to not disclose too much about its contents. I don't know how pointless or genuine a kid's diary can be, but I know the early 90s pushed the idea of having a journal as the peak of sentimental youth almost obsessively. Cartoons, movies, comics and novels all depicted early teens pouring their heart into meticolously described journals; toy shops everywhere sold a great assortment of padlocked notebooks, mostly decorated with anime protagonists so they could be even more enticing. Rich spoiled brats could even go for expensive electronic diaries, a feverish (but incredibly sought after!) mix of stationery, PDA and calculator. In short: if you didn't have a journal you were no one, so we wrote wrote wrote. The habit stuck to some of us.

I've had several journals for most of my middle and high school years too, its appeareance and writing style changing each volume until I swapped permanently to a binder and loose paper; before that I always added some kind of intro or header to my entries, either with a drawing or by writing a special phrase (for a period in middle school I always wrote my entries early in the morning so I could copy my sign's daily horoscope broadcasted from an early bird TV channel xD), but then the entries themselves gained the spotlight and after switching to binders I went for a minimal decoration approach, just the entry date and then pure text.

Afterall, I was employing my creative decoration skills elsewhere: during high school I discovered the art of scrapbooking and started filling up a huge binder dedicated to my favourite punkrock band, mainly a collection of magazine covers, articles or even just posters or mini blurbs related to them. Everything I could take from Rolling Stone issues, other music mags and- most frequently- teen zines like the italian Cioe' ended up catalogued in the binder, the pages pierced and snapped in carefully and decorated with punkish stickers and cutouts. At some point I was even transcribing video interviews, translating and researching the meaning of song lyrics, and added an update section to write about new appearing pages: in hindsight, if I had the ability to create a website in that moment of my life and dedicate it to that band, I would have ended up with quite a nice page full of content! But the story didn't go that way.

Instead, my first online journal was the aptly named Journal section of DeviantArt, come 2005. Having an online personal blog aiming to completely substitute an actual writing journal is a contradiction, in my opinion, and many people influenced more by the first than the latter may not even know how to properly write for journals.
As much as we all consider ourselves to be a drop in the ocean of Internet, subconsciously we're aware that someone somewhere has indeed discovered our personal blogs: that someone could be anyone. Generally as a form of self defense, even if we swear to dedicate a certain site for ourselves only, we instinctly omit personal details on online journal entries be cause deep down we know we're not writing about ourselves to ourselves, but towards others. The journal becomes a stage and our entries a recital, a seemingly sincere mask that we wear to introduce us to the virtual audience but to proctect our actual identity. As early teens it's difficult to notice the writing style difference and since typing is usually faster than writing, many journal writers completely forget about their paper diaries.

For a period of maybe 5-8 years I stopped writing on physical journals. I thought a few life update logs left on my art gallery accounts were enough; there, I documented the "being part of a rockband" and "attending tattoo school" years of my life, highliting the excitement of getting new concert gigs around town and how well the tat lessons were going. But at the same time I was omitting so many details, both bad and good, that were all related to my personal sentiments about them; our early band members before "the official roster", all the places we tried to practice music at, the many times we just didn't want to play and goofed around with fans of the band instead; but also the disappointment in being used to play for 4 hours nonstop in a pub and being paid literal pocket change since we were "only starting out", and how we still stuck to it because, in the end, it was giving us a gig occasion; the rivarly and criticism from other similar local bands that, in the end, played no better than us; the utter confusion when the rest of the band members fought among eachother and split up while I was away, and had no idea of it. There's nothing about these events and feelings recorded anywhere but my mind, and my memory can't be as fresh as the exact day I experienced such scenes on my own skin. Top that with my habit of periodically deleting those DA journals overtime (ultimately purging them all when I migrated to VN) and chronicles of those years have gradually vanished.

I returned to written journaling at the start of the pandemic and it was then that I realized how different and unsincere my writing was, since I now developed the habit of writing about myself to others. Took me a bit to get the hang of it again; in order to retrieve the proper writing style I sometimes wrote entries about past events that have left a scar on me (both in the good and the bad sense), or themes and people that have accompanied my life for many years. My pen almost vomited an untidy stream of words acknowledging all my feelings, and realized once again how liberatory that was, how "perfect" that chaos was. Who cares about structure and paragraphing and even sentence order when no one else needs to read that shit?
At the same time, I learned that a diary someone can reply to also has its perks: it's fun, and helps people better relate with the content creator. Viewers need to know more about an author's life and thoughts and feedback can spark new inspirations to the writer giving them a second opinion on a certain matter. It leads to better relationships and more interesting dialogues providing a two-way personal growth, even if it's not as introspective as an actual secret diary.
So an online and an offline personal journals don't substitute eachother, rather they work in pair and each provides different experiences: the owner simply needs to know they ought to be written differently, with the offline one being much more unscrupolous and without any real rule other than recording what one actually feels and thinks about a situation.

Nowadays I have several journals that record my memories: first off it's my spiralbound notebook, a secret diary in the most classic sense; then my daily planner, which as much as it can be just a collection of trackers and bulletlists it still helps me record my daily life (in more occasions I used it to remember what events occurred in a particular day when I wanted to add a life log on my actual journal xD); online, I have BlastoiseMonster for every memory, review and rambling I have about gaming (or sometimes even toys); Twitter sometimes gets used for some live and immediate chronicle, as brief as it can be; and finally there's VN of which I'm still learning its role.

I'm not sure if I want VN's journal to be thematic: so far I've talked about art-related matters, but confining this blog to such arguments would mean creating another one if I want to openly disclose about something else, further fragmenting my chronicles. Maybe updates on this section won't be as frequent as other parts of VN nor my actual diary, but I'll be sure to return to this place again in the future for the simple pleasure of writing.


Etnacomics 2022 Survivor! --June 18th 2022--

I'm home. 💀
EtnaComics has been my most tiring workcon so far. Cartoomics 2021 was a close second with its problematic planning, but it didn't last five whole days and didn't require to catch a plane at 5AM with two heavy suitcases full of comic volumes and merch to sell.
Lock treated it more like a vacation, which makes sense considering we've been in Sicily for a whole week! The place was wonderful and we've been all the time with JulieKarbon, Ares and their respectinve partners. Renting a shared apartment in Catania to stay at during the convention days took me back: we weren't travelling like that for comic events since the old days of LuccaComics! Also for someone living next to a dormant volcano, arriving in a new place and seeing one that's instead active and currently fuming kinda puts you on edge, as spectacular as it is 🌋
Since we were in Sicily during June I was expecting sweltering heat throughout our whole stay: luckily the convention space had AC and our position in the Artist Alley next to a backdoor granted us gusts of fresh breeze in the afternoon. As for the rest, we only moved around town either after the sunset or early in the morning avoiding most of the sunny hours; I did the big mistake of spending some time in the con's open space for a quick lunch break on the first day and I constantly chased shadows after that 😆

Sales wise, we learned that EtnaComics should better be called EtnaGadgets since that's what we sold the most! Comic volumes went away too but not as much as I had hoped so our homecoming suitcases were, sadly, heavier than what I initially estimated. But hey, it was our first venture very far from our usual convention grounds, makes sense to first test the audience before learning what really sells in a place.
And something successful we did find- watercolour bookmark commissions. People viewed them as a cheaper option to regular sized commissions and went crazy for them! I think they're going to become a staple at our booth, since they were quick and easy to do and many asked for fanarts, which allowed me to draw in many different styles.

There wasn't anything interesting gaming wise for me to buy at the convention, even though at one point I found out Simon Bisley was sitting in a random, small, utterly unnoticed booth drawing commissions. Like, completely unannounced. The temptation of having a Cuna De Rios character drawn by him was HUGE but I had half a feeling that he was there only to draw DC properties... and the cheapest sketch was 280 Euros, no kiddin. Guess I could have afforded it if I didn't care about food or emergencies for the rest of my stay there :V

Speaking of emergencies while driving back to JulieK's hometown after the last day of the con, as if we weren't tired enough, one of our tires broke (pun intended!). We were on the highway in a curve with the night approaching, the thought of getting ran over by another speeding vehicle made us so nervous that we weren't even able to change the tire! Road safety came by relatively quick to help us out; afterwards we had to drive all the way to Enna with the emergency tire on an old country road, so it took us something like two hours to complete a half-an-hour trip and we arrived home at 1 AM. If it wasn't for the hunger pains we would have probably just skipped dinner alltogether and gone to bed xD But after being able to laugh at that scare, we all felt a little closer to eachother. The only thing left for me and Lock was to catch the plane back home on the next day! A literal tour de force. Does it show that I'm not used to burn the midnight oil?

Getting to the end of this trip really felt like surviving a great adventure for our group, but if asked we'd probably do it again! EtnaComics is an expensive event for us since travelling and overnight stays get added to all the costs that need to be recovered but the amazing company and new friendships made it all worth it! Even better, now that we know what's really popular among that particular audience we can adjust our "travelling inventory" to maximize sales. Bit of a downer that comics weren't as popular, but I can't expect congoers to always be the same. Much hope for the next events!


Weirdtoomics 2021 --November 19th 2021--

This year's Cartoomics has been peculiar: the first edition since 2017 in which me and Lock haven't shared the booth with the rest of the Griffinest crew, due to space restrictions being still implemented after the pandemic and many of our group not even being able to freely travel to Milan. The two year hiatus has taken a toll to the convention's board as well: first off it completely changed, putting new people in charge of the Self Area (where indipendent artists are located), then it resorted to merge with another event, the Milan Games Week, in order to stay afloat. For further info, the MGW has nothing to do with comics and has never dealt with a Self Area.
In short, it was the first time I was dealing with the reservation all by myself, and on the other line I had unexperienced staff trying to treat a small and simple Self Area table like a big commercial booth worth millions of Euros and needing a whole group of employees.
During all this I was also in contact with a whole community of indipendent artists who were equally screaming at how bad planning was for this year, especially considering the increased reservation price: slow communication mostly made of generic responses (almost automatically generated) and exclusively via email since no telephone number was ever issued, if you had a question that somehow drifted far from their automatic issued infos rest assured you'd never get the answer for it. Most of us ended up a few weeks before the event with a salty bill to pay, documentation still missing and a whole lot of unanswered questions. It made me question my own ability to even fill out forms or understand emails; then I found out that everyone was having my same existential crisis.

Me and Lock got personal passes only a few days before the event and only available through a management site that NO ONE liked nor knew how to navigate properly: I talked with the chairman during the con about it and even he had only bad comments about it. Moreover, once again it was optimized mainly for big companies with a lot of personnel and merch to manage, resulting dispersive and cumbersome for small artists who only need to sign up their name, pay their pass, and just attend. That is, when the site was online. It had 404 errors and bad gateway most of the time. Geez
Worst of all, me and Lock even ended up paying for a vehicle pass that never got issued and forced us to pay for additional parking spot during the con. When asked about it, the IT staff started dubting we paid the pass in the first place... all this while we just showed them the credit card receipt clearly detailing the completed transaction. I had to stick around in bureaucracy hell for much more if I wanted to just start filing a complain about it, let alone get some sort of refund, so I just said fuck it. I may have lost 60 Euros but I still value my sanity.

Incredibly, the event itself went along as smooth as butter. The pandemic hiatus made attendees grow hungry for convention atmosphere again and especially, comics! In particular, people stopping at our booths collectively agreed that the Self Area was indeed the best place of the whole con, which gave us an extra pride boost. Audience was even more interested than usual in hearing about our stories, asking further info and buying volumes while showing genuine curiosity about the project. LWY sold so well we ended up without even a copy of Volume 1, and had to rush a reprint as soon as we got home! Sinergy also sparked plenty of interest too despite being our oldest project; now that its story is complete, we're selling all five volumes in a nice slipcase which has been very appreciated by buyers. Afterall, they're getting a full story from end to finish.
People were also fascinated by live commissions and we got asked for plenty; I started drawing Animal Crossing fanart requested from my Twitter buddies during calmer hours and as soon as people saw coloured art they came in flock to watch us draw. xD People who commissioned us had a lot of interesting fanart ideas and OCs, I'm glad I could work with them.
Finally, we had some very interesting encounters at our booth and got to meet a duo of synthwave music artists, PlayHZ, which we'd love to commission for a LWY opening of some sort; also a youtuber, Nekofra, that promised us a review of Lost Without You!

I don't like to talk in detail about money, but keeping it general we had already recovered all our expenses by the middle of the second day which for us was a big record, especially considering the booth's high price. The income flow kept itself busy and steady until the very end, truly a positive note to end the convention with after what we went through to make our appeareance possible.
Cartoomics has been our steady convention for many years and in part, it's very sad seeing it reduced to a counterpart of Milan Games Week, which in turn got advertised as the main event of the weekend; furthermore, the awful Self Area planning really drove us mad and even after the event we sent a collective complaint email to the staff (pretty sure it fell on deaf ears though). On the other hand, this was truly our most profitable and interactive convention so far, to which we can't deny the wish to attend again, hoping for similar outcomes. However we really really expect to deal with a different staff next time!


Goodbye Urban Jungle! --September 6th 2021--

Today I went to the post office and shipped away the last purchased copy of Urban Jungle: Sounds, Gears And Scenes Of City Life. Never meant for a reprint, this artbook won't be featured on my Shop page nor my convention booths anymore; all that's left is the browsable copy which I'll keep for old times' sake.

UJ marked my first real step into self publications back in 2017; before that I attended some smaller cons (Salerno In Fantasy and Bordafest, dating back to 2015 and 2016 respectively) but only worked alongside my boyfriend and our friend Diana for their Sinergy project. Lost Without You wasn't a reality yet, hell even Sinergy's first volume wasn't ready in 2015, we only brought previews/prints and presented everything like a fundraiser campaign xD even without having anything of my own I was happy to just stay there and have a place to do live commissions, but I was already starting to plan some kind of "brand renewal" for my whole online presence so it could be brought at conventions in a more professional guise.

Subsequently the three of us joined forces with Coeleth, Darkan and FedeMexy forming the Griffinest collective. At the beginning the group was just an excuse to easily split booth and travel costs, but it later became something more when we opened dedicated socials and started working on collaborative projects among eachother. It was quite an exciting experience, even if we all came from different parts of Italy we kept in touch with weekly group calls and a private board where we shared ideas or gave art feedback/redlining to eachother. Whenever we'd meet up for a con it was always like a big reunion party and most of the times we'd even share rented apartments if the con was far away. Gave me and Lock a feeling of belonging, we loved it!
Our first convention as Griffinest was Cartoomics 2017, where LWY's demo volume also premiered. Everyone was bringing a collaborative project and a personal one, and it was then that I realized I was only there because of LWY: I had nothing of my own!

Urban Jungle got developed in just a few months in time for Cartoomics, aided by the fact that artbooks are relatively easier to rustle up compared to comics (Cuna De Rios was never meant to be comicbook material, anyway) and that I already had a huge pool of illustrations and content pick from: my own gallery. It wasn't a rushed job, however; it was the first time I was presenting the lore of Cuna as it was always intended to be, a collection of daily lives, seemingly banal scenes that become iconic within the characters' thoughs, as to evoke a feeling of collective nostalgia for things and actions that we took for granted in the past but are only a memory in the present. I never put those words out, so I took the time to pair every featured illustration with a backstory or dialogue of some sort. Nowadays some of these backstories also figure in my illustrations' descriptions, here in the gallery pages!
There were also inedit pieces, some exclusives for the volume, including step-by-step process pics and the cover which wraps around the whole volume. It was also my first attempt at pagination, which gave me quite some doubts during the printing process considering all the splashpages I put, but came out surprisingly well!
The idea of making it bilingual english/italian was useful too, as I could sell the volume both at local cons and internationally without having to print two versions. If we come up with similar projects in the future, we'll surely keep them bilingual.

If I were to get back in time and change one single thing, however, I'd swap the Urban Jungle title for something else. For the life of me I can't remember why I didn't simply name it Cuna De Rios, maybe I was already well aware it would have become a one-time-only project, or maybe I thought Urban Jungle sounded more captivating for an audience completely new to my drawings. It's a very common use phrase though, so much that during its first period of being online I got contacted by another italian self publisher telling me "hey there's another project called like that!". 🤷 At least I doubt the subtitle has even been used for anything else XD

In the subsequent years the Griffinest group didn't exactly disband; however it became more loose, with each one of us either finding our own way into professional publication or veering towards other aspects of the art industry, so there was little to no time for weekly chitchats and roundups. Nevertheless, we kept appearing at the Cartoomics as one single group, and copies of UJ have followed me since (along with LWY that each year had a new volume ready!). I like to think that many new fans now know me exactly because of that booklet and have found more art of me online afterwards.

Covid has put convention appeareances on hiatus for a couple of years, and it feels almost symbolic that I have managed to sell the last remaining copies of this artbook during the pandemic. Now that events are starting to resurface I can leave my Urban Jungle chapter behind and start a new one with a second artbook. I've been juggling with ideas for a while and finally settled on both a classic style artbook researching on japanese Gyaru fashion style and a manual of some sort on how to properly start one's own journey in the world of self publication (we get asked about it a lot during cons, I think many people would appreciate a detailed guide!).

Goodbye Urban Jungle, and thanks for accompanying me to my first "workcons"!


First Steps --June 4th, 2021--

Now that most of the info pages have been taken care of, I can tackle the Journal section. My very first post on a new site! Truly the start of a journey. This time there's also a futher difference: obviously, these won't be the same as update logs on the landing page whose purpose is solely to keep track of everything new onsite.
Journal posts will instead detail a bit more on what's happening outside the virtual world and maybe even disclose about particular subjects I feel like blabbing about. They're gonna be longer, more seldomly updated, and probably useless unless you're a fan of reading blog posts. If you are, then be my guest. 🤷

Way back in the mid 2000s when I first opened a DA account my Journal section was thriving with chickenscratched posts: every single event with friends or upcoming highschool test was worthy of a new entry. As years went on and my art career consolidated "life-update" posts gave way to utility pages: terms of service, pricelists, rules. It didn't feel like the place to blog anymore, and even if I kept writing a few more journals they became scarce and direct, more akin to news tickers. I also have a huge cleanup habit, so old entries that were deemed too stupid or useless got deleted. Maybe it was for the best (we all know how cringey teenage writing can become) but I still lost a good part of my highschool chronicles, that's kinda sad.
So I learned the lesson and knew my own domain needed a section to store blog posts separated from anything else regarding infos or updates. There's no web space that better achieves this than handmade sites where everything can be tailored up to each webmaster's needs. Take that, social media! :V

Dedicating this first entry to an introductive tour of VN would be redundant since there's updates and About sections detailing that; I'm just going to talk about the reasons of my recent site migration instead.
DeviantArt's permanent change to its latest iteration Eclipse has changed the virtual life of many users: unfortunately, such change was for the worst in many aspects!
It killed any userpage customization feature causing a disservice to a huge part of the userbase who was all about CSS custom coding (I was even in the middle of revamping my page layout when the update went live!), left an incredible amount of bugs all around that made browsing or even recieving messages a real pain, presented us a clunky, slow and objectively ugly layout that even failed to load correctly on all browsers, and as time went on more and more basic features started getting locked behind several levels of subscription paywalls.
I ended up discovering that the subscription I regularly paid was now useless, and that I had to spill out even more money for features on a site that didn't properly work, looked awful and wasn't the one I originally signed up to. The staff's obvious corporate greed, promising DA was still "putting art under the spotlight" when it was clearly not, disgusted me.
It was time to pack things and go: a lot of my friends and watchbase was doing the same, so even feedback and interactions were reduced to zero. Really what was the point anymore?

My DA account was originally opened because I've always been fascinated about owning a personal corner of the web. I was an avid surfer during the first era of domestic Internet when most of the web was handmade: fansites, shrines, personal pages, there wasn't a company behind them but a single person or a close group of friends, sharing their own vision of a virtual home. At the time I lacked resources to keep a personal domain alive: the DA account was more like a rented apartment, but still served its purpose for the time being.
Figuring out I now had everything needed to purchase a domain, I started re-learning CSS and HTML, finding out that the world of website making had developed greatly since the times I used to play with Microsoft FrontPage. Luckily my brother provided help for database and PHP knowledge: man I can't ever thank him enough! But we love to work together on large projects, so this felt like another fun excercise of ours.
I may be two decades late, but I'm finally here with the site I've always dreamt of; maybe it's for the best, since my site as a kid would have probably been yet another pointless Poke'mon fanpage, evolved into a Green Day shrine once I switched obsession as a teen. At least now I have an actual purpose with a personal art/worldbuilding gallery and commission hub.

Indeed, I did miss a golden age now that social media is taking larger chunks of the web space. But I feel more and more people are getting sick of those congolmerate sites opting instead for relaxed personal corners. If there's something we've witnessed during all these Internet years is that even here trends come and go, so who knows? Maybe Web 4.0 will be even much more different, or do a full circle and revert back to a more primitive state.
What's sure is that I'll be watching everything unfold from here, as I built VN to stay online for many more years.

I'm still in the process of relocating my whole gallery, but once done VN will completely substitute any purpose my DA account had. I won't deactivate my old account, instead opting of leaving a notice of my new site and a few words on why I left with the intention of never logging back again.
It's an end of an era, but a dawn of a new one.





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