Mini Con Guide Pt.1: Starting Off --March 5th, 2024--

A few years back just after selling away my last copy of Urban Jungle, I was deep in brainstorming phase for my next artbook. That new project finalized into Doubutsu No Gyaru but there was another concept which I was very fond of.
More than an artbook, the alternative to DNG felt akin to a manual or guide on how to get into the selfpublished business from scratch: over the years a lot of people visiting our booth at conventions asked info on how to get one themselves, so it seemed like a good idea to print some sort of tutorial book. However, the self area/artist alley panorama quickly shifted into different trends while I was jotting down my manual chapters and nowadays everyone seems to be more knowledgeable, already getting info and support from boards and groups populated by veteran con-goers. I'm part of such groups, so I still actively help out whoever's in need with their brand new convention space! Though the book, at this point, felt redundant and at risk of becoming outdated once printed.

That said, my recent uploading of a basic PDF creation tutorial gave me another idea: how about I publish these tips and tricks on my Journal section? The following blog posts aren't to be taken as proper all-around manual chapters, but more as entries in which I disclose a few less talked about aspects: booth organization, what I use to keep track of things, how I display my products, so on. I'm sure the info can be of help to anyone, entertain a few readers and at the very least entertain myself on writing them, because I really like to talk about my selfpublisher life!
This discourse will be split in several entries (though I'm not sure how many) and this first one will tackle the matter in a very general way: how to start it all up?

First off, if your dream is to bring your products on a convention table it must mean you already have a brain-baby of yours in a good phase of production, like a comic being already printed or some merch laying around your livingroom ready to be ordered from your Etsy shop. This "guide" will not talk about how to make an artbook or your own stuff for sale because that's another whole matter, but it can help decide on the best place to start off based on what you like to do.
The convention and comic art expo world has massively expanded in these last few decades; being italian myself, I obviously speak based on what I see in my country, but I'm also seeing a similar situation in other european countires and if you're from across the Atlantic pond, I'm sure cons are getting very common over there as well. Along with many long-running major events (which are of course to be taken into consideration), our regions are scattered with minor meets all trying to focus on specific audiences: cosplay parties, art exibitions, pop culture conventions, movie preview fiestas, local vintage comic collector booths, the list goes on. Taking time to explore such events as an attendee is a good form of first-person market research. Bring a notepad along or a phone writing app and try to answer these questions while you spend a day at the convention:
  • How much did it take me to travel to this place? Did I use public transportation or my car? If I have to stay here for more than a day, can I endure the trip back home in the evening or should I get a place to stay during the weekend?
  • Travel and accomodation expenses are two of the three main costs you have to consider when selling at cons (the third one being obviously the cost of the booth itself) with major and minor events held close to one's own hometown being without a doubt very convenient. Travelling as a seller will also mean you will bring along your equipment, so take your time to ponder how easy your trip will be bringing along that stuff, be it with your own car or other means of transportation. If the event takes place at more than an hour of travel from your home, consider for a place to rent for the night as well: sellers have to show up at the event early in the morning to set their booth up and usually leave a good half hour after the public has already gone. Stress does impact your selling experience, so plan your trip in a way that is both comfortable and affordable.

  • Now that I am at the event, what's the atmosphere like? What kind of attendees are roaming about? What products are mainly displayed for sale? How much did I pay for the entrance ticket?
  • Next step is studying the event itself in correlation with your own products: a general pop culture event will easily host any kind of seller, but cons specifically catering to certain items (comics, books, vinyl records, vintage toys) are to be taken into consideration only if you're selling exactly that product- or something very adjacent to it: for example, a book detailing about the rise and fall of the Beanie Babies boom of the 90s will certainly spark interest both at book and toy fairs, but will be out of place in an anime convention. The audience is also a very good aspect to study, as it will be your potential customer; check if the general age of attendees matches your product's target and, no joke, how expensive was their entrance ticket. Conventions nowadays are visited by students, families, old collectors along with new fans, other artists and cosplay performers. If the entrance fee was, for example, 20$, a family of five might have already spent a hundred to get into the event and might not be inclined to spend any more, unless it's something very cheap and that can prove to be a good souvenir for kids; collectors, instead, come to events with a big budget available but will only employ it for specific items. Also, a positive atmosphere helps people spend more: check if the convention venue is pleasant, if the staff is well organized and keeping the areas clean, if people have no trouble moving from aisle to aisle, if it's too much empty or too much crowded.

  • Are there any selfpublished/indie booths around? How big are their tables, how much did they pay for it?
  • Obviously, the presence of indipendent artists at the con is a positive sight! Look at their tables, if the staff has given them enough room to set shop (imagine yourself and your products on the same table, would you be able to display everything with that table size?) and finally, ask if you can be indescreet about table pricing! While not everyone will be comfortable to say the exact price they paid for, most will at least share hinting info with comments such as "well, the table I got was a tad small for what I paid" or "it was an affordable price!".
    Some conventions (again, speaking mainly from an italian perspective) separate indipendent artists into two categories: Self Area where comic artists, book writers and merch producers go; Artist Alley reserved to illustrators who are there to sell commissions, original art or prints. The exact rules to apply for both slots changes depending on the event's staff, but generally Self Area and Artist Alley offer different prices and table sizes, with the Artist Alley usually being more affordable but offering a very small table and limitations on what products can be displayed.
    Some conventions, especially the major comic-related events, only have the Self Area available; others prefer to only have the Artist Alley; some other organizations switch their names around. Yes, it's a bit of a mess! All we can do is adapt to the staff of each different event and understand properly what booth is best for our products.

If answering those questions brings up a positive approach to the event, it's time to contact the staff and see how they can host your booth on the next edition! Conventions usually open for scrutinies a few months before the event takes place and either leave a form for sellers to fill up on their own website or need to be contacted via email to recieve it. Exact rules, details, prices and payment methods vary depending on the event, but it's almost always all written on the form, otherwise the staff is generally available to satisfy your doubts if you have any.
After assuring yourself a booth and paying for it, you can consider yourself part of the con! You have a few weeks to ready up for your first public appeareance: next up we'll see how to organize, display and pack up the inventory and how to keep track of earnings and expenses.

Open Letter To Creatives Of The Net --January 12th, 2024--

Are you a new creative (or an older creative, same thing)?
Do you feel poisoned by social media?
Are you tired of having to follow time schedules, keywords and having to alter your own artwork in order to rack up some audience?
Do you feel "like fatigue" and get disappointed by your pieces not collecting enough reblogs despite you being pretty proud of what you made?
Do you think the platforms you are spending most of your time and resources on work against you and shadowban your content?
Are you tired of getting unwanted posts slammed onto your dashboard, having to deal with bots in DMs, and intrusive advertising in every corner?
If these descriptions fit you, then please please please do yourself a favour and LEARN HTML.

As Web 2.0 and 3.0 trends have rolled out, netsurfers have been accustomed to use social media also as a means to share, store and display artwork to the point that this is now the most immediate and cheap way to build a gallery online. But it is not.
It's common knowledge that no social media is built for artwork. None of the current options are ideal to store permanent galleries of any kind; on top of it, social medias rely on algorithms that actively work against artistic content.
We unfortunately became lazier and less responsible as time went on and left only a few big companies to take care of the net and shape as they see fit. It's time to reverse that.
So please, LEARN HTML.

I've seen so many disgruntled, sad or angry posts of artists frustrated that Twitter/Furaffinity/Deviantart/whatever social or gallery doesn't satisfy them anymore and have no idea where their fandom is going and fear that the direction will change so much that will leave content creators behind- well, it's time to break the cycle. MAKE YOUR OWN WEBSITE.

"Oh but if I make one, I'll be on an island of my own!"
This is exactly why the message has to spread as much as possible. The trend has to start somewhere with someone: that somewhere can be here and that someone can be you. If everyone has a website, then it becomes once again normal for an artist to, first and foremost, have their own page on the web that is not attached to any bigger conglomerate.

"Oh but modern site builders like Wix or Wordpress do not allow old things like layout freedom anymore!"
I know. This is why you need to LEARN HTML so you can build it yourself.

Web developing languages like HTML, CSS (and more!) can be used to make a lot of pages, sites and projects that can range from very simple to very complex. They might take a while to master but thankfully are easy to learn, especially the basics. Gather resources and make the website of your dreams!
You do not have to make a new social media; you don't have to build a gallery for a collectivity. A personal corner, a portfolio, a place to store your own thoughts and the things you like is sufficient. Artists can thrive on static pages (and even then, after you've mastered the basics, why not spruce it up a little more and try a bit of JavaScript and PHP? Nothing will stop you).
So, learn HTML to build your own gallery. One whose colour scheme, options, sizes and priorities are centered on you and your own art.
There are several ways to acknowledge and practice web development for personal use:
  • W3Schools.com is both the best way to start understanding these languages from scratch and a good resource to dust off some old skills.
  • If you're ready to experiment but don't want real commitment or consequences yet, Neocities.org offers free hosting and an on-site text application to write your pages and view them directly on your browser. It's the perfect playground for starting sites and for whoever wants to fully grasp the concept of building a static HTML page. I don't recommend it as a free substitute for an actual domain, but as a beginner place to learn and experiment, yeah that works fantastically!
  • While Visual Studio Code offers the best writing environment for free, HTML pages are incredibly versatile and can be written even on NotePad. NotePad, seriously! If lines of code scare you, then a WYSISWYG editor would be best for you. Short for "What You See Is What You Get", these kind of programs help you build pages graphically, as if you were working on it on Paint. There's plenty of free options too!
  • Need inspirations for layouts or want to understand how a particular HTML element works? Did you know you can see the HTML of pages you're visiting?
  • Ready to adopt your own domain? Hosting sites are aplenty on the net, each fulfilling specific needs in terms of budget and available space. Free hosts probably still exist, take a look around. Need an unlimited file repository? Just a GB of space? Are you looking for novelty top-level domains? Hostings got you covered! They're out there, just search around.
This huge journey starts with a small step: LEARN HTML.

"But it takes experience and skill to build websites!"
I was 11-12 at the start of the domestic Internet era and every single fansite or personal webpage I visited was maintained by kids of my own age. The oldest webmaster I knew of was 16! While it's true that skill level varied greatly among these pages, most of them were still easily readable, explorable and most of all, they were online and updated. If a kid in the late 90's could pull it off, why can't you now?
At the cost of sounding like a broken record allow me to take once again Suta-Raito as example: for a long time its layout has been a quality standard among the community both for its pleasing aesthetic and its functionality. Valley Of Nightmares and Seafoam Island presented similar layouts and were also inspirations for many other aspiring webmasters.

"But if I build my own website disjointed from socials, how am I gonna build my audience?"
The concept of big communities and web popularity existed way before socials and ironically, it relied more on communication and collaboration than it does now, where a page can rack up likes only by buying sterile advertising space. There's so many ways to make your site become a network!
  • First of all, affiliates. No website was an island back then; webmasters would befriend via email (or MSN when it came out!) and decide to exchange linked banners so viewers of both websites would also check new places. Site banners in their iconic 88x31px size have since become cute collectibles and another way to decorate your site!
  • Some domains were dedicated to topsites: a ranked list of pages dedicated to a certain subject or genre, in which websurfers could vote for their favourite to land in the top ten (and you'd get a nice graphics to display onsite, as well!).
  • As soon as more advanced building languages became available a few sites even started allowing for viewer comments just like modern blogs; however, viewers worldwide could reach out to webmasters by simply contacting them on email or instant messaging! Now that we are always readily available on Telegram or Discord as well, easy direct messaging is not a social media exclusive at all.
  • Community building around webpages was both free and easy as pie thanks to forums: even the smallest website had one, so viewers and fans alike could exchange a word and find themselves a place on the net. Forums are sadly no more, but once again both Discord and Telegram prove to be valid substitutes for building audience and communities thanks to their groups and servers feature. A website linked to a Telegram/Discord community would surely be visited by its members!
  • Oekaki was the single best thing of art-centered websites in the mid 2000s: you could draw online, doodle and goof off with other creatives and viewers alike! The service has been since substituted by other means of drawing online with friends so the habit can be still brought back!
There's so many other small but fun and effective ways to get to know fellow artists and get yourself known with websites: awards, contests, fanmail, group projects. In all of these examples the key was always "partecipate and be friendly", not "add a ton of hashtags and hope for the algorithm to notice". Audience built around websites would be a little smaller than the bloated social medias but would always be made up of people actually interested in what the website had to offer. Let's start once again focusing on quality and not on quantity in all aspects of web popularity.
Of course your new website can be linked to your favourite social media, if you want: for better or for worse, socials are still the best way to reach audience so advertising your page updates there is not a bad idea at all; studying new ways to take advantage of modern Internet tools in order to boost a site or provide an interactive experience is totally doable. The obvious plus is that once that social platform will inevitably be gone, all interested viewers still can visit your site and have a surefire place to still follow your new artings. With a permanent website you will never suffer loss of followings nor of your own content.

I'm not going to lie and say the building process is immediate and free of obstacles; it takes time, practice and patience to both build a site and have it known to others. I butted my head against the keyboard so many times trying to figure out how to properly display stuff in my own site (even just the menu, go figure) and went for a whole year with a placeholder layout before coming up with something that really satisfies me. Even now I know there's some things here and there that can be done better: small quality of life fixes that can polish the code, make navigation easier, give more display options to my pictures. But the most important thing is that I have the authority to change every single thing in my own web space exactly because it's mine.
No more begging for other developers to fix things, no more waiting for external updates. My domain is here so I can do what I want with it without relying on an external staff, without relying on webspace built by others that had other needs and projects in mind.

Of utmost importance, my website is here because I took action and started it: yours can be online for the same reason, with the same motivation. You're the creator.
It's a long journey but it is not impossible and the end result is truly something that caters to the maker, that shapes up around the art it is built to host, that is yours and yours truly. I can't stress enough how making one's own website will make you feel that you truly own and manage what you create because that's basically what it is. You will be building your own home on the net, not "rent a flat" in a social media that will evict you eventually.

Finally yes, I too was a bit afraid that my website would have been a drop in the ocean at the start; I knew that my initial updates would become screams in the void as audience could still easily check me out on other sites, but the situation didn't last long.
Customers now know that they can rely on my queue page to see where their commission progress is or when I reopen for business; I get emails or Telegram messages from viewers wanting to discuss my latest gallery or journal additions and it's always an articulated and inspiring conversation, no more "Cool-Thanks" empty feedback; the endorphin rush of having a random person come and say "your website layout takes me back in time" is better than any new like I could ever get on Twitter.

So, creatives of the net: be the start of this change.
Please learn HTML. Get the "land" and build the web home of your dreams. Exchange affiliates with others; get yourself known and help others get known, too. Communicate, participate, offer an experience to your audience that can't ever be replicated on socials.

We can fix this poisoned network one little webcorner at a time.

This entry also comes in PDF format for easy read and sharing. If you know someone that would benefit reading this, save this link and share away!

On Collections --November 9th, 2023--

Among the vast world of hobbies catering to any imaginable need and interest, collecting seems to be a highly popular feature in many pasttimes and surely a very common and diverse trait.
The art of seeking, cataloging and displaying a set of items has primordial origins: enciclopedias say it even started out as a fad in ancient Egypt, however we could probably trace a much more recent point in time in which "collecting" stopped being a hobby for rich people linked only to fine art pieces and instead started referring to any ammassed hoard of toys and random items the average crowd (especially kids) are usually fascinated by.
Don't get me wrong, examples of popular expensive collections still do exist with celebrities often flaunting vintage cars or even house or castle selections; what I mean is that the term isn't restricted to displayed assortments of big-budget or investment artefacts (more on this later) anymore and that common articles have become collectables even if their monetary value is none or very low: the only common denominator being the hobbyist holding a dear sentimental value towards such items.

One of my father's friends for example had an obsession with reptile sculptures growing up, especially if woodworked: I was 4 when we used to go to his house and the entrance had this huge wooden Gila Monster mounted on the wall, its painted yellow markings shining against the black wood. After two house moves his collection has shrunk focusing on turtle-shaped sculptures only, but I still see a great display of them if we visit his current house.
My dad, who way back in the early 80's was the first one in Salerno to get a Hi-Fi audio system, has been collecting music CDs since then: they're still at home, a whole wall in my parents bedroom dedicated to CDs of pretty much any genre, many of which have, in the subsequent years of my upbringing, also been stuffed into my walkman to listen back to back while studying or reading.
Both wooden sculptures and CDs are objects that, alone, do not mean nothing to the high-value market, but that to the person who collects them have a history, a memory behind whose pricetag can't be put on.

When Poke'mania showed up in the 90s (you just knew I would have mentioned this, did you?) their slogan of catching them all clicked so well with many collecting-inclined little brains: a lot of kids started ammassing their own favourite gadget featuring the monsters; however their source wasn't a find in the wild from time to time anymore but a regular, everyday visit to the local shop or the newspaper kiosk to pay a chance to have a new addition.
Subsequent animes from Cardcaptor Sakura to Beyblade or Medarot or YuGiOh fell into the "collect-a-thon" genre, in which there wasn't a need to show exactly the toy kids could buy to re-enact their favourite scenes (like it happened with He-Man or Thundercats for example) but it was sufficient to display the wide array of creatures and designs they would have met if they bought whatever the marketing company was publishing with their logo on.
These cartoons and the phenomenon of "catching-them-all" sparked a resurgence in the 90s of everyday-object collecting among kids, especially those who had never thought of having a similar hobby before. It was all about coins and miniature cars for our parents, it became all about toys for us.
I personally had many collecting phases growing up. I didn't need the Poke'mania to get the inspiration as the inclination of a hobby like this was already ingrained into my personality, so some of my earliest collections date even prior to 1998. Fascination with certain objects not only changes from person to person, but the same hobbyist changes their passions as they grow up: as such, I've been through several phases and left many of these following collections behind.

Greetings from the Adriatic Coast! As if someone could visit all of these places in a mere week! The earliest I remember was postcards. The habit of sending postcards while on vacation is sadly fading away but while popular they were a common subject for such hobby especially because they were so easy to come by. My family exchanged a lot of them as almost all of my relatives travelled often; of course, whenever I went somewhere I also made sure to get a good set just for me. My favourite were postcards from coastal cities with many different panoramas collaged together, often coupled with silly graphics saying "Greetings from Place!", bonus points if they were oddly shaped. I also liked cartoon postcards a lot, there was this Lupo Alberto zodiac set which I was obsessed with: a local tobacco shop was selling them in my hometown and everytime my aunt went to buy new cigarettes I was there at the souvenir stand looking out for the signs still missing in my hoard.
Regettably I was very unorganized with storing those postcards: they were kept loose simply bound with a huge elastic in one of the drawers of the livingroom cupboard. While mom surely saved most of the postcards that we got from relatives, the ones that I got myself are now nowhere to be seen. As a kid, however, passions come and go very quickly so it was normal to hop on fads as I grew up and better understood my interests.

A little more later in the years mom, who at the time worked at a printing company that distribuited publications to newspaper kiosks, started bringing home one of those hobbyist magazines-with-gifts that were popular throughout the 90s and early 2000. DeAgostini was the major italian publisher of these which ranged from "build your own miniature ship/car/whatever" to "arrange a cool collection of assorted stuff by buying it piece by piece with our issues". She used to get me one that focused on gems and other precious stones: I can't say no to a nice shiny. Kobold intensifies!
Every stone came with its own case so storing and displaying problems were partly covered; though the main disappointment was that I couldn't add my own pieces to it. Where else I was going to find emeralds and amethists, on the beach? I had no personal connection, no story behind those things.
Eventually we didn't get any more issues, either because mom's distribuition company didn't deal with that publisher anymore or because she understood it wasn't my ideal way of collecting something. The gem box travelled around the house for a while before disappearing completely, I bet it might have been put away during a spring cleaning and that's okay, no reason to keep stuff one's not attached to.
Later in the years Lock told me he too used to buy those same mags to arrange a gem collection: it shows how these things were waaay popular here!

A couple more years passed and I came across another hobbyist periodical that instead focused on telephone cards. Did you guys remember these back in the 90s?
Unless you were a stock broker or a very important businessman, cellphones were nowhere to be seen and in order to make calls if you were outside there were payphones everywhere. You could operate them with either money, dedicated coins or pre-paid cards that came in various capacities (either 2.000, 5.000 or 10.000 liras here in Italy). Anything but mundane, these cards came with a myriad of designs printed on them: famous paintings, landscapes, cartoons, photography, even local artists were commissioned to do their own telephone card design! I bought the magazine for just a couple of issues before continuing the collection on my own since my family (even myself!) obviously used and regularly bought telephone cards on their own. The mag would give away some cool cards from France or Germany, but the italian ones were already so interesting by themselves that there really was no need to buy those issues (the first one came with a cool binder to display them all, that was useful enough!). My telephone card collection continued for a good while and I even managed to snag some rarities, yet everything came to a halt when we started getting ahold of our first cellphones, therefore defeating the purpose of payphones and their cards entirely.
So this other phase came and went: incredibly I can't even remotely remember what happened to the binder afterwards (spoiler: another victim of spring cleaning, that's for sure) but that doesn't matter much in the present. What's important is that payphone cards helped me undesrtand what I really wanted in a collection that could be called a proper hobby: flat, small colorful items to store in the best room-saving manner possible without damaging their integrity. Despite leaving everything behind, the fascination with them still faintly lingers on: if I spot a telephone card collection at flea markets I just just have to flip through it and see if any of those displayed was also once in my own binder.

Around this point Poke'mon arrived in Italy and I was pretty much collect-less. Periods might have overlapped a bit with my phone card phase but not by much and I remember not having a collection-based hobby for quite a while. Sure, I had completed the sticker album, I got a few trading cards or some toys and I was an avid buyer/reader of the dedicated magazine, yet incredibly there was no series of objects at all that I could say to myself "oh, I want the absolute whole set of these". In hindsight it feels very out of character for me considering my obsession with Gen 1, but it makes sense when analyzing all of these gadgets' main sources.
Okay, stickers for the album and the ones coming along with a packet of gum were easy to come by, but trading cards required a dedicated community of players-traders in order to thrive and in my town there was none of that at all. The closest shop that would allow tournaments was most probably at half a hour of car from my town, no Internet at all to get ahold of such info, none of the stupid kids from my school even remotely understood the game, which is remarkable considering how stripped down and kid-oriented the OG cards were compared to the much more complex Magic The Gathering. So in the end all I got were some occasional packs because the art was nice but no more than that.
For what it concerned official Poke'mon toys (not videogames), even kids knew they had to be rich to get more than one: probably the most collectable were marbles but as much as they sparked some curiosity I couldn't get into those.
Finally, there was semi-official merchandise, all those tiny cheap gadgets that came with snacks. We got bombarded with such a wide variety: magnets, pencil toppers, little figurines, erasers, even the juice bottlecaps themselves but my household has strict bans on junk food (something that I'm actually thankful of) and I could never get a real look at these series: I only came by a few of these items since I would trade them for my card or sticker duplicates. Moving on with the years now!

My own pick collection, as of today! The smallest object I ever collected entered my daily life later in my high school years when I started a band: guitar picks. At the beginning, stupid teen me was convinced to just straight up collect guitars: I already had a classical one and two electric basses so technically that classified as a good start! But of course price and room problems kept my feet on the ground. However, nothing prevented me from going to the music store once a week with any loose change I had and spend it on cheap, small guitar picks: everytime we had a new gig I would get a new one, as if to impress a particular memory in each of my collection pieces.
Picks are tiny little gadgets. First off they come in a variety of colours, shapes and materials; on top of it, many (if not all, I guess?) pick making brands, already aware on the collectability of these, produce tons of novelty ones with cool designs whose purpose is pretty much just to satisfy collectors. Really, you could surely play with these but you'd end up ruining the design and they might not even be the right thickness for your guitar, so why waste them? Guitar picks clicked all the right buttons of my hobby standards: plus, at the time I finally had Internet so I could scout the web and see what other collectors were about when it came to picks. I learned another golden rule: never compare your own collection to what others have! Online blogs flaunted hundreds of designs gained from community trades, tours and concerts, all experiences that weren't available to me at that age; all I was stuck with was the local shops and whatever they managed to order from distributors. Look at this Pick of Destiny! Isn't it glorious? My absolute favourite is this vintage "candy stripe" Pickboy with metallic engraving, what a timeless style. It'll be forever in my wishlist (I'm definitely not keen on buying picks online and spend more in shipping than the pick itself!).
Nevertheless, I was proud of my own haul and all the cool designs I had managed to collect. In fact, it's safe to say I never stopped collecting picks: the tin in which I store them is still with me and whenever me and Lock go to a concert I get a pack of promo designs... I'm simply very slow at adding pieces to it (which is frankly okay, it's not a competition!).

As soon as my post-highschool years arrive, a personal budget (thanks to commissions) and more freedom to travel all over Italy to attend comic conventions are both unlocked and the Game Boy passion spark reignites: I still had my Poke'mon cartridges from childhood but a purchase of Zelda's Oracle Of Seasons made me realize how cheaper second hand games had become compared to when I used to buy them from toy shops. The many exclusives from Japan also justified the opening of an Ebay account to snag some good deals on exotic titles.
The rest is history, because with my Game Boy games collection I decided to open a dedicated Tumblr which made me explore one final aspect of the collecting hobby: documentation and research. Every time I acquired a new game, console or accessory I would study their development, test and play, then finally review everything in a post: the hobby became much more interactive than simply acquiring new picks or phone cards and just looking at them. It finally felt like a proper pasttime and it still is, since several years after I'm still adding Game Boy games to my collection. I recently passed the 150 acquired pieces milestone! Ironically I don't have much to say about it because everything is written in my sideblog, but I can tell this particular collection still brings me happiness to this day and interests me the most.

I keep my GB carts in decorated wooden boxes that I paint myself (there's an example in my gallery) and my picks in a roomy tin. My luck comes in the fact that I like to collect tiny objects that can be easily stored, but there's a lot of popular collectable items which are very big and end up invading the collector's personal space.
Just to say a popular one: other kinds of non-handheld consoles, but also vintage computers, plushies, action figures, skateboards, t-shirts. Videos and examples of such collectors are all over the net and they usually have to dedicate a whole room to what they have. It's not always easy to organize one's own life and home in order to come up with proper storage and display: what we see online are usually arranged in a pleasing way just for the purpose of the videos but many other collectors who do not record their hauls live may not have a dedicated room and have to resort to external storage in extreme cases... that is, if they haven't given up already and every single room of their house has some kind of collection display instead. That is the case of one of our friends who collects boardgames which used to be stored just in the computer room, then passed to the bedroom too and now the livingroom.
Another ordeal for collectors is the money involved: goes without saying that a person with an hobby already means they have an extra budget to dedicate solely to their pasttime, but it often happens due to item rarity and speculation that some pieces reach prices way over the usual. While there are objects that will be expensive per se (if you chose to collect guitars, you'd never expect to find them at a few bucks!), sometimes even the cheapest collections have holy grails that gain an aura of uncomfortable prices, forcing the collector to accept the fact that they'll never get ahold of them amd have a true complete set.
In my case with Game Boy carts, I'm glad to have acquired all Poke'mon games for the console before prices would inflate to the insanity of today; even then, there are more for which I'll never spent that much money, like the absurd Shantae (that's why I got a WayForward endorsed repro of that) or the even weirder Izek Game Boy operated sewing machine, which is the coolest oddest thing ever, but other than costing a kidney where on earth should I put that?

With nerd and niche cultures having become the money-moving machines they are today, collectors who focus on trading cards, games and memorabilia often forget that collecting is a hobby, turning it instead into a secondary job: a thing to do on the side (or even full time!) for extra money. Instead of being fascinated by the history and variety of the items themselves, new collectors see aftermarket prices first and foremost, starting collections only to get a sweet deal out of them and not for the sake to have a pasttime. It gets tiring when you're scrolling guitar pick forums to look at the cool designs and most threads just ask "how much is this worth?": I get some items are bound to be rarer than others but man, we're talking about something that you can buy in bulk for a few bucks...
As predictable it can be, hustle produces stress and stress doesn't make things fun anymore: having been in the retrogaming community for many years I've also witnessed several people quitting the collection hobby not because of loss of interest, but because they claimed it was too tiring and hard to keep it up, two things a hobby, by name, should alleviate instead. It's important to notice, however, that no matter how often this greedy approach happens among collecting communities it isn't still considered the norm and many people often respond to quitting collectors to not take their pasttime too seriously, that it should first and foremost bring happiness.

Happiness and satisfaction can vary from person to person; some collectors enjoy small objects, others find discovery and research to be the most exciting aspects of collecting, others take delight in arranging different displays of their hauls, no matter how small; many, as said at the beginning of this journal, take pride in reminiscing every memory linked to their single collection pieces; some even like the aftermarket culture, that's just how they approach to the hobby. It's important to understand everyone's view and standards may differ and even in a community of people collecting the same thing (a toy series, for example) individuals may add their own personal rules to it, wanting to collect only one specimen, pheraps, or focusing on bootlegs only. There's not a fixed set of guidelines as long as it makes the collector happy about their own hoards.
As for me, I'm glad to have found a way and a subject for my collecting hobby that most caters to my tastes and satisfies my pasttime needs; despite the many other collections I've abandoned, I'm thankful for the journey I have taken in discovering what really clicked with me. Regardless if you are a seasoned collector or if you are still discovering the hobby trying to understand if it's the right thing for you, I hope my rambles can help shine a tad more light into this deep, vast rabbit hole.

The Shell Of Choice --September 10th, 2023--

The other day, totally out of nowhere, Lock has asked me if I still remembered the "Shell of Choice" option in the profile info section of DeviantArt; he never exactly understood what kind of shell they were asking for and always jokingly filled the form saying shotgun shells were the best around. :V
I always preferred to leave that blank, instead; I suspected it had something to do with computers, but I couldn't exactly put my finger on what part of a computer they really meant. My best guess was the computer case, as in, the model. Oddly specific thing to ask on an art-site profile, sure, but the pre-social media Internet was mostly populated by geeky computer nerds, so a question like that seemed to acquire more sense: you'd obviously ask the preferred motor specs to car show attendees, for example.
DA wasn't the only site featuring a Shell Of Choice dialogue in their profiles: FurAffinity still has that option and I suspect that it could have possibly been a popular profiling question on art sites that opened from the dawn of the Net up until the late 2000s. I unfortunately wasn't on many sites during those years as I tend to faithfully stick to one place, but can someone confirm if Elfwood or SheezyArt, for example, had it? (Speaking of, omg, remember SheezyArt? At the time most DA citizens shunned it and was described as the hell where all Sonic recolors go, but man if it really gave its users freedom to personalize homepages! Gives me an idea for a "lost artsites retrospective" journal!)

In all fairness, most if not all of the people I knew from either DA or FA had any idea what to put as "shell of choice", leaving it blank or providing a joke response, which made me wonder if the netsurfing population that would actually care about a "shell of choice" on an artsite was gradually shrinking, leaving way to a newer generation whose shell, whatever that was, wouldn't matter.
So anyway, what exactly is the Shell of choice?
Sharp inhale...
Whatever operating system you are using right now, there's a surefire probability it's a graphical user interface; as in, it's full of icons and displayed menus that can be chosen by pointing and clicking with a mouse. It is, however, widely known that before we could view the desktop as, well, a literal desktop, computers operated only with written commands. The term "shell" was born in this period, when users were asked to program their way into file ordering and selecting; the first two popular "schools of thought" came out to be Bourne Shell and C Shell (1977 and 1978 respectively), programming languages that couldn't be compatible with one another. As years passed on, more options of shells started surfacing as programmers pointed out Bourne and C's shortcomings and released updated languages that would fix those problems. Having described the scene, it is obvious to imagine well versed computer users having fierce opinions about a comp's ideal shell, and therefore faithfully sticking to a certain team.
Of course, operating systems with graphical interfaces are still built onto a shell nowadays, but after having researched what all these terms mean, I assume the general audience really doesn't care what shell their computer is using... unless they're running Linux.
Linux is known to be a sweetheart for many geeky programming fans, mainly because of its prerogative to be highly customizable if you know coding. The Linux operating system can have many different shells and just like Bourne or C fanboys, someone's preference can be source of debate among other users of the chonky penguin OS.

So there you have it, mystery solved... however it still feels like a greatly out of place question to ask on a site where the general user is a twelve-year-old using the family computer to upload their Neopet and Warrior Cats fanarts.
Unbeknownst to many, the virtual world was changing even in the mid 2000s and a new generation of users was already taking advantage of spaces -like DA- that allowed for free hosting of creative material without direct knowledge on how to build a personal page. DeviantArt's staff and the first users migrating from their own domains surely were much more into programming in general, but those that came later or that had never a real interest in computers other than a means to showcase their art to others wouldn't have possibly come across "shell" as an IT term. Even as far as 2005 documentation can be found of users knowing what a comp shell was but asking themselves "okay, but why is such a question posed here, of all places?", adding to the proof that it felt like a strange question. Some may say, deviant. xD But maybe it was exactly the reason why it was put there: taken out of context, it's a really nonsensical question and people out of the loop, instead of not responding entirely, invented all sort of responses creating a variegated and crazy net scene.
Maybe, a "Operating System of Choice" option would have been much more understood by the general audience; no matter the age or technical skill, everyone who booted their own comps knew wether they were using a Windows or a Mac; furthermore, both factions had enough fanboys to spark a healthy rivarly among profiles even in the early to mid 2000s.

Just like many things, profile infos on sites (be them art-focused or not) are very different nowadays, mostly showcasing links to other social media or external sites like a condensed business card; but in the adolescent age of Internet the profile was much more trivial, akin to those long quizzes we used to fill journals with and then tag friends, in which we tried to disclose about ourselves in interesting and singular ways. Infact, most sites strived to push this feeling of peculiar trivia quiz by adding their own personal flare into profile questions; other than the puzzling "Shell of Choice", DeviantArt's signature option was to list one's own "Tools of the Trade", an interesting question given the art-focused nature of DeviantArt and thankfully a traditional option that has been brought to Eclipse's profile info as well... although I'm unsure whether that platform's still used. FurAffinity instead asks its users their "Species" of choice, given that the majority of surfers on that area of the Net must surely have a fursona or two; the aforementioned SheezyArt, true to its customizable style, allowed total freedom for the profile section (including image hotlinking and basic CSS styling) and Elfwood, even if it was from the late 90's, displayed an user's world position on a minimap! How cool is that?
There's a lot of these tiny details on old sites, little flavor decorations that came as an afterthought when they were the norm back then, but now that the web as a whole has passed onto a new set of trends, older surfers recall past days and can't help but ask themselves "hey, what happened to...?".
For example, remember when LiveJournal had a whole list of "moods" to add to a blog entry complete with dedicated goofy emoticon and allowed users to upload a different avatar to go with it? The 100x100 avies, be them animated or not, became a collector item among many websurfers that started getting hoarded in personal pages or computer folders, with graphic sites even offering their own as a downlodable freebie; the blog moods, instead, were added on DeviantArt's journals and even on FurAffinity's introduction section, although that position feels weird as an intro is not as temporary as a journal entry.
Speaking of homepages, remember when old artsites had a whole "Desktop" and "Webcam" sections, which simply allowed users to upload a picture or gif and it could be literally anything? While the Desktop section was usually employed as intended (oh, what delightful walk into the past all those screencaps turned out to be, XP desktops decorated with anime wallpapers and rows and rows of videogame icons of that era!), the webcam was an absurd free space in which first memes started surfacing; cat pictures, stuff randomly found online, reaction gifs, cartoon stills...
And the shoutboards? Before seeing them again on DeviantArt, I used to find shoutboards at the top of forum homes or alongside website splashpages and none of them was filled with a regular message! Everything was a chaos of silly shouts, injokes, jovial greetings that made these places homes to return to and everyday find something new and exciting.

I feel like the minimal and over-simplified design trend that the web is undergoing during these years has smoothed away all these odd, rougher edges that gave sites, even the more professional ones, a pinch of colorful peculiarity; it's like an adult businessman that has completely forgotten their rowdy punk younger years and is now all work and no fun. As a lover of past things, I can only hope the trend eventually fizzles out and tiny but memorable site quirks start resurfacing once again!

Magazine Passion --May 9th, 2023--

The Internet of nowadays has gained a very important presence in the world of information: official statements and national events get spread by social media accounts first and then reported by news outlets... which also utilize social media to advertise themselves.
This development has been so swirling and quick that we often tend to forget how not many years ago the main forms of information were TV and printed media; undoubtly both are still alive, but obviously their relevance has greatly diminished and in some cases gone completely forgotten by certain age groups.
Access to the Internet was scarce during my pre/teen years (which was not even that long ago; I'm talking about late 90s or early 2000s) which meant people of my age had to retrieve information for their favourite passion from somewhere else: teen mags! Our rooms were filled with issues and issues of any imaginable genre, allowances were spent at the news-stand looking for interesting titles to follow, oftentimes with the one friend having more pocket money making the purchase so we could read it in group while chilling at the park or the town square.

Moreover, us girls seemed to have much more choice because the publishing world thrived with magazines catering to a female audience.
Among many, Cioe' was (and surprisingly still is!) the most famous publication of this genre: to a skeptical audience the Cioe' might look just like a trash journal filled with nonsense about the latest hearththrob, but it was actually a well rounded zine covering several subjects from TV shows and movies to singers, events, fashion, and even interesting studies or guides explaining some stingy but confusing aspects of growing up. There were interviews, previews and inside looks for upcoming novelties but also more "lighthearted" stuff like mail corner, quizzes and even the occasional crossword. However, its many extra gadgets were the reason why the Cioe' was so sought-after compared to the many other zines that followed its steps. This mag really upped the ante when it came to gifting readers and each issue came with sets of either bracelets, rings, earrings, make up, nail polish, phone charms, clip, pendants... every single shine and bling a girl could ask for could be found in a Cioe' issue. Of course the theming was random each time and sometimes when the publishers were extra lazy we'd only get a set of temporary tattoos, but whenever there was an issue with a good loot it was a rule to split it among the group of readers (maybe also an incentive for each of us to get a copy of our own). The mag itself had some more goodies with the last pages being randomly filled with either stickers, folded posters or collectible cards (usually dedicated to whoever was on the cover that week) but if that wasn't enough, Cioe's whole cover, front and back, was printed on sticker paper. Readers could do cutouts and scrapbooks with the whole zine!
When the riotgrl/emo/punkrock fashion trend exploded, many alternative publications started appearing on the shelves appealing to this specific audience. Many were similar to the aforementioned Cioe' but focused more on rock music and culture, some of them even leaning more into classic rock or metal (kudos!); however, the staple of giving readers stickers, posters and cool gadgets remained (I remember one of these mags once sold striped fingerless gloves and we went insane... imagine a slew of band-shirt wearing 16yearolds assaulting the news stand to get their own pair of gloves whose coloured stripe matched the colour of their dyed hair strands!), along with the quizzes and obviously, the mail corner.

The mail corner was especially important in these kinds of publications as it greatly helped, in a world before group chats were easily accessible, to form a solid sense of community among readers. It wasn't rare to see that people could respond to eachother via the magazine itself, with letters getting published issue by issue; this way, ideas or sentiments were shared and readers could get to know another opinion, a worthy suggestion or a useful tidbit.
Letters sent over to the Cioe' and similar magazines mainly talked about love problems, something that, at some point, would even bother the most romantic in the friend group; however the letters sent in to a certain monthly mag I used to buy for myself only were much more interesting.

Poke'mon World Issue 2 Cover Gold and Silver weren't even officially announced (omg, it was 2001) when I spotted the neon green cover of Poke'mon World; I wasn't unfamiliar with game magazines of course, but PW resonated with me so much I never missed an issue since. Being fully Poke'mon oriented it was easy for the mag to catch my attention, but what made me stay was the care and sincere passion about collectible monsters the writing staff emanated from editorials and reviews. The four guys (whose profiles were written on the first page of every issue) were clearly fans just like us readers, making sure that none of their articles felt like sterile advertisements. Guides were heartfelt, cheats and tricks were proofed on their own consoles, news were exciting to read because they were excited too! There were even some articles dedicated to trips the staff personally took to Japan to report about exclusive gadgets and events.
Sense of community within PW was even stronger as the zine dedicated several sections to readers: people could send in a list of their TGC decks to get reviewed, there were at least ten pages of mail corner and trading offers, fanfiction and fan drawings had their own section (I got an issue with my own drawing published, too!) and at the end of the mag, even a namelist of everyone who had sent in letters and other stuff, called the Trainers Club. List of Patreon supporters at the end of videos? Psh! 90s kids already did that ages ago.
In later issues when Digilander and Altervista became a thing, there was a whole spread page boosting fansites (of which I've talked about in a BlastoiseMonster blogpost) which, in a way, helped fellow fans rise to a status of semi popularity just like PW's staff.
Poke'mon World offered no extra gadgets, but it wasn't necessary for such a well done zine to attract readers with anything more than its quality content (other than, maybe, its neon coloured covers- I love them so much!). Opening a new issue each month was like checking into a familiar clubhouse of people scattered all over Italy sharing the same passion and willing to contribute, appear with a letter, deck or fan content on its pages, make themselves known with their names in the Trainers Club.

Wouldn't be a surprise that these readers themselves would try their hand at publishing a zine of their own, maybe even teaming with fellow content creators: enter fanzines, publications which aren't endorsed by any major company (Poke'mon World, as sincere as it felt, was still something run by Play Press) but are, well, indie, just like the comics me and Lock work on.
Special Strike was the first real fanzine I came across, admittedly very late into its lifecycle (I found one of its issues among vintage gadgets at a comicon) and when I was already well accustomed to the whole process of producing, paginating and printing my own books. I quickly recognized its fanmade feel and the warmth that passion projects always bring.
Published in the mid-to-late 90s by a very small indipendent italian print based in Genova, its issues were available only through mail order and the money invested by its readers was solely employed to recover costs. It usually catered to manga and anime fans by dedicating each issue to a different franchise: there are volumes focused on Ranma 1/2 and Marmalade Boy among the list of previous issues, to name a few.
I've always been a big fan of physical fanzines; the limited availability turns its readers into members of an even more special club, and finding these volumes out in the wild after so many years (and so far from its region of origin!) makes one wonder how important and widespread indipendent press was at the time. But what's even more fun than reading a fanzine? Being among the creators, of course!

With APAs seemingly being relics of the past, Rowrbrazzle relegated solely to the nostalgic minds of greymuzzles and Special Strike found in a booth of vintage gizmos, I genuinely thought fanzines were a thing of old eras and that newer generations would never share the joy of making one. However, looks like I hadn't dug further enough.
Fanzines have learned to thrive among social media, advertising themselves on Twitter or Tumblr and making good use of the Discord platform for production phases, quite a natural evolution if we consider that group projects have always been important and very engaging within creative communities, going as far as forums and mailing lists.
All this surely sounds like old news to people, but for me that's just a whole world opening: my last collaborative projects were made for a forum I used to surf in the late 2000s, but after that place closed we were all islands floating in the sea of socials, nobody seemed to organize art jams anymore.

After filling up their artist application form, I got brought into the creating staff of Lost Dex Zine, a fan project dedicated to all the scrapped beta Poke'mon designs fans of Game Freak have found in the wild. With this, the world of modern fanzines has fully been opened in front of me and day by day I'm discovering how well organized and professional it all looks!
Modern fanzines are still a project made by a relatively small group of people, but since they potentially concern artists and buyers from all over the world, the creator of the idea always looks for a team of moderators: people who can work on the final pagination, communicate with whatever printing company is chosen, take care of copy shipping, and even manage finances (most of these zines do send out their profits to charities!). Then before starting out, an interest check form is always sent out on social media to see how many people would potentially contribute to the zine or be interested in buying it; oftentimes, these checks are run to also better decide the theming, pricerange, content of a zine and see what people excpect from a certain fandom.
Contributor artists, writers and merch producers (yes, because fanzines too like to send out their own bling! With so many gadget producing companies available online, these zines are able to create some fantastic professionally made loot!) are then chosen via an application form... in which they are expected to provide a portfolio, and could result into a rejection if you're not up to their standards!
Woof... surely fanzines' expectations for an artist's quality and skills are a bit more permissive than official publications, but almost all forms I've filled up have given me the same goosebumps of a bona fide job app. 😅

Sheer Cold Fanzine with their accessories If you're lucky, you get brought "onboard" in the production Discord server... and that's where the real fun starts.
In the Lost Dex Zine server I've met a huge group of friendly creatives, many just as excited to be part of the project and eager to start! These small communities are, from what I've seen so far, the closest thing to the warm and homey fan forums of Internet golden age; same exact atmosphere! Exchanging page art ideas, discussing concepts and giving/receiving feedback on how to get a piece exactly right feels incredible in the server and galvanizes to see the project continue and thrive until publication day!
Meanwhile, staff works their magic on social media by advertising the zine, its contents and its artists. We get a spotlight too with dedicated tweets and blog posts, something that undoubtly helps creators get known and expand their audience.

The project I joined is going to be a big one with almost a hundred people pitching in to contribute with art and stories; LostDex's production will last throughout the summer and knowing how much it takes for self publishing books, we're gonna have to wait until October so we can see our work on paper.
Meanwhile, I have to say... it takes so little to get addicted to zines! It's easy to find groups and websites dedicated to zine advertising for everyone interested, doubling as a calendar for all interest check and contributor application dates. I joined, er, many, whose responses will roll out in the following months. It's gonna be an exciting summer. 😊 Mostly Poke'mon related as (not surprisingly) they seem to be one of the most popular ones; however I also found several interesting Ace Attorney publications along with some rare 90s videogame fanzines. Obviously a lot of these projects tend to focus on newer media, toons or games I do not know about or I'm simply not at the right age to enjoy anymore. And frankly that's okay, it's understandable. Trends and fandoms come and go: years have passed and all those titles that were all the rage back then have, naturally, ended their cycle and left the scene for other products.

It's rather natural that zines concerning older media or travelling via the classic net of mail order are getting rarer. However, it's comforting to see that fans will always happily reunite into communities and give life to projects celebrating their love for a series; similarly, it's interesting to see that whatever the period, publishing a little journal "by fans, for fans" generates so much excitement and engagement among creatives that the creation of a zine trascends social media and uses such platforms for a finetuned organization and worldwide spread. Physical goodies and indie publishing will always be the best!

Inspired! --February 9th, 2023--

Relationship between past and present is fascinating: everything we have experienced up to this point in time has shaped our current point of views, cultural luggage and even physical appeareance. Events, places, people and objects, no matter how trivial, still leave a trace of existence in our subconscious years and years after.
It's an aspect of growing up that has always interested me, not at all as a means to glorify nostalgia but to instead recognize and accept milestones in our life that sculpted who we are nowadays; even when we're passing through "phases" chasing the fad of the moment, after we grow out of that point in time we still remember how we used to be before changing again: that part of us still resonating echos of past weeks, months, years, for some becoming a pleasant memory and for others a warning not to retrace one's own steps.

Artists (in particular modern "content creators") are greatly influenced by this personal baggage, everything we watch or listen to or "makes us feel" becoming the spark we needed for a new chapter, another series, the next drawing: how many aspiring creatives have started by showing off their fanarts or dreaming of following the steps of their favourite idol?
A lot of them can clearly pinpoint their artistic influences: the aesthetics, styles, people, colours and lines that shaped their liking, became part of their own signature. Well, kudos for them: it ain't as easy as it seems. I've seen many templates asking netizens to list their influences, but let's face it, simply saying "oh, I'm here because of X" doesn't fully explain how something has shaped our style, or maybe it's me who strives for overanalisys, looks out for the stories within; it's not even a matter of just throwing every single media you like in the bin: you gotta recognize the things you are simply a fan of from the things that changed your ways.
Yet sometimes I do feel like showing off, like pointing at a cartoon or an album or a game and be like "see this? I'd be different today if it weren't for it!" and I don't know if it happens to others as well, but I think my list of artistic influences would not even stop to banal entertainment but also tackle fashion or specific aesthetics: these aspects also matter. So why not try?

Definitely the following list isn't in order of importance, I feel like everything here below has equally contributed to my current style choices; however I did try to put it in some sort of very rough chronological order, something like "I surely came across that specific thing after this". As we never stop learning new things in art, so the list of our influences grows with time; there may have also been some things that slipped out of my head at the moment of compiling my own board and I would probably come back here to add new things. Enjoy the introspective journey for now!

Traditional animation
Traditional animation There's something about animation that catches the eye of every kid in front of a screen.
To me it's the magic of actual, physical drawings coming to life on video! I've always been fascinated by the technique of animation more than the cartoon itself even at early ages; I used to enjoy several of the "Dark Age" Disney classics (The Aristocats & The Rescuers especially) because I really liked how sketch lines were still visible on the final cell. Hell, my all time favourite Disney classic, The Great Mouse Detective, comes from that era and it even showcased scenes with an interesting mix of traditional and computer graphics... and it was as early as 1986!
Seeing footage of animators working on their elevated desks over lighttables and flipping papers to see how their inbetween frames worked was incredibly interesting, something that always made me dream of making my own cartoons, despite understanding how much work actually goes through it, even for simple "Saturday morning"-quality episodes. At the same time, I've always found what's behind animated cells to be equally interesting; backgrounds! Some of the most classic animation backgrounds are actual works of art of which we are, sadly, gradually losing the skill and technique needed to replicate.
That's why I consider traditional 2D animation to be an extremely important technique in entertainment much more than the nowadays overused 3D style: it's an amazingly satisfying art with years of work behind that needs to be recognized and remembered throughout years!
Along with the aforementioned GMD, other clear influences of mine include The Chipmunk Adventure from 1987 (amazing squash-n-stretch animation on the charas!), a whole lot of Looney Toons classics (Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones being my favourite contribuitors) Darkwing Duck or Bonkers (for their special "syncopated" animation technique originally used to cut production costs, but that gave an extra layer of uniqueness to the cartoons) and The Lion King, for its colours and enviroinments.

1990s Computer aesthetic
Old computers On the other end of the spectrum of my earliest influences there's early computer aesthetic, at a complete opposite of analog traditional animation!
My dad's a programmer and growing up in the early 90s with someone in the family that worked on computers meant having a kickstart on the world of technology in a timeframe where not everyone had access to these machines, especially in southern Italy. Along with being very keen on learning IT things, the colours and squarey graphics of early graphic OSs looked incredibly endearing to me; there's something in the palettes, shapes and presentations of Windows 95 or 98 recreating a definite atmosphere that hasn't been seen in any other future iteration of the Microsoft product.
Somehow, documents and workfiles were being associated to the tropical beaches and dreamy aquariums shown in screensavers; Microsoft BOB, despite being a commercial failure, strived to turn the workplace into a cozy house; there was a weird effort of associating computer work to vacations especially towards exotic destinations, an aethetic that could be best named "tropical corporate", which goes beyond creativity that could derive from games of that era; just looking at busy desktops is enough to spark that specific inspiration. I think vaporwave kinda tries to channel that feeling, but goes a bit beyond with distortion, while the originals were crisp and vivid. It's no secret that both Joypad and Program derive from this specific style, but also a whole lot of drawings of mine!

The Simpsons - Seasons 1 through 10
Classic Simpsons I wonder if early seasons fans are to the Simpsons franchise what genwunners are to the Poke'mon fandom. :3c I guess I could be considered one of those, although it's true I still enjoy some jokes of the mid seasons up until the movie era for strong nostalgia reasons (once again it's because of my dad's influence, we always watched episodes during lunchtime!); it's also undeniable that the Simpsons encapsulated perfectly the feeling of a "modern" 1990s family, and trying to drag that concept onwards into the late 2000s is... just wrong. Not to mention their "digital cleanup" era and further implementation of digital cells, ugh!
Seasons 1 to 10 is where I get most inspiration from, anyway! From the obvious reason of exquisite traditional animation put to good use (have you seen the fluidity and squashing in some of the early episodes? Whoooo) to their fluo colours, cynical humor mixed with very wholesome scenes, attention to plot details and... their hand style! The Simpsons is the cartoon where I directly got most of my hand style: I like how chunky, round and "paw-like" they look but still appear properly drawn and detailed enough to simulate natural gesture. You can even easily discern female from male hands, and it's such a simple style! Art goals.

Graffiti and Skate Art
Graffiti style Growing up in a urban area I've often been close to the skateboard and graffiti culture; I feel like these two would always go hand in hand, each one inspiring the other for its movements, colours and trends. Ignoring the rather meaningless tags, it was a joy looking at dull grey walls getting drenched in fluo tones with big letters and gnarly shapes, something that many of my age at the time started copying into our school diaries; as for me, I brought that habit along for many more years and tried to incorporate it into my art (pretty obvious that Keith Haring figures among my favourite modern artists).
I remember an old interview with a street artist mentioning that graffiti was the art of making people percieve loud music through visual media, the art of "making noise with drawings": that phrase stuck to me through the years and became a mantra for most of my illustrations!

Ken Sugimori's Poke'mon Red-Blue Artwork
Ken Sugimori artwork ...Do I really have to introduce this one?
This franchise has influenced countless art-inclined kids in the 90s and nowadays I still know people in the industry who have specialized in creature development because of these little monsters (hell, I even know a few friends who have started biology careers due to their love for pocket monsters), it's not a surprise to see it listed as an inspiration in many of these influence boards.
Many have become fans because of the anime or the games; for me, it's Ken Sugimori's original concept art that makes the first gen so dear to me and has found its way into my drawing style. Traditional linework, soft watercolours and great use of white as filling space, to me it's the most iconic aspect of Poke'mon artwork, newer generations just lack the same vibe! Aside from the technique, I also find most of the first monsters' anatomies interesting to study and Sugimori's style for human visages has often become a model for me to imitate.

Dean "Noogy" Dodrill
JJ2 animated intro If Poke'mon got me into creature design, Jazz JackRabbit helped me get closer to anthropomorphic characters; the second chapter of the game added Dean Dodrill to the development team who contributed with animated intros and outros for the space bunny adventure. His style is easy, round and very expressive, literally one of the first that I took as model for anthro animals. Furthermore Noogy was also rather close to the anthro subculture, posting on Yerf (remember that?) and very present among the community formed around the Lori Central website, where I partly got inspired to draw slice of life strips from. I still remember visiting his personal site to check updates on his animation project Elysian Tail, basically what later evolved so much to become the videogame Dust; I really liked his mouse chara Bonnie! Too bad she was nowhwhere to be seen in the final game.
By the by, Lori Central is still online almost intact! ...Wonder if I can ask for affiliation? xP

Suta Raito, and Webdesign of the mid 2000s
Suta Raito in 2007 This is another entry that would need no real explanation, because just take a look at the page where you're reading this from and take a guess. xD
Oh, to be young again and visiting all these sites when they were at the peak of their activity and popularity! I spent so much time on my first personal laptop (with a very pricy dial-up connection) to explore such pages; though most were advertising themselves as places to get Poke'mon tricks and cheats from, they quickly became corners for creatives to showcase their own art wether it was original or fanart, also including Oekaki communities within (oh how I miss those...), becoming melting pots of artists before DA came and incorporated us all. But there was so much more! Neopet petpages! Blogs! Ancient furry sites!
Everything looked glorious and content aside it was the actual layout of pages that got me visiting them over and over again: "homely" is the ajdective I find most fitting for them because it's like stepping into the webmaster's room full of everything they like, tailored to their needs and personalities. Websites with colorful banners, side menus, intricate table structures (back when tables were still a decent HTML coding form), sponsoring affiliates and local chats, each one striving to show a new combination of these elements by exploring with different screen sizes, frames, even Flash animations during later days: they influenced me so much. Inexplicably, their codes managed to seep into my own drawings; it's so weird how a completely different form of design has inspired another but here we are. Obviously, they also inspired me in a more direct way with webmaking: VN is the proof :3

Candycorn and Candycane Moving more and more towards late influences before I really started studying for my own personal style: come 2005 when I finally got my own page on DA! The first users I decided to watch were mostly fans of the same bands and videogames I liked at the time but among them there was somewhat of an outsider, Crouching-Kitty. Art student, Kitty had a variegated gallery with semi-realistic portraits and detailed backgrounds; however sometimes she would come up with doodly and more stylistic short comics starring two cartoon cats, Candycorn and Candycane. While nonsensical at best, I still became enamoured with the comedy, drawing style and character design! The first version of my own comic strip protagonists were kitties just like CCorn and CCane, before improving them with different species and much more details: quite embarassingly, some of my early strips (which I fortunately never uploaded online) had their jokes almost copied from hers. I was a very stupid 16 years old. x.x The two charas became an icon for this DA user, whose comics became so popular on the site to even earn one of the first fanclub accounts (waaaaay before DA groups existed!) to which I even contributed with a few fanarts.
As years went on and Crouching-Kitty became more invested in her animation career eventually moving on to more professional art hangounts, so the two kitty characters became unused and obsolete. It was the end of a DA era for me, but at that point in time (prolly 2013?) my gallery had already taken flight with its own identity, completely discernible from the CCorn and CCane style I liked so much. Nevertheless even after all these years, I mark Crouching-Kitty for the most influential DA user that most got me into actively posting my own art on the site.

Emo fashion trends
Emo trends Alongside my debut on DA, mid 2000s brought another life changing update in form of music albums that completely shook my whole generation: American Idiot, The Chronicles Of Life And Death, The Black Parade, Infinity On High. Emo and Scene culture exploded and me and my friends completely dived into it! It became our lifestyle, we did it all: writing on the white tips of our Converse shoes (or even buying white ones to fully decorate!), all the "Rawr!" faces in our photos, absolute love for washed out pop-punk styles, the iconic hairdo, arms filled with spiky bracelets and fingerless gloves, studded belts, wearing black mixed with fluo colours, the poses... man I gould go on for days!
As my charas further developed and more of my friends started following my drawing antics, emo culture quickly seeped into their appeareances becoming almost local icons, ambassadors of the culture we were following. Black clothes, red neckties, striped fingerless gloves, plethora of piercings, those incredibly big tufts: frankly it can still be seen on many of my charas because it's pretty impossible for me to separate from that trend, it's such a big part of me even though I do not fully wear emo fashion anymore.
And yet sometimes when I go get a new haircut I still ask for a choppy one, just for the sake of good old times. :3

Flock Migration --November 13th, 2022--

Once again, netsurfers of the art community are witnessing the next big migration from one social media to another as Twitter users are (rightfully) deciding where to fly off to: many are about to try out the new Mastodon bandwagon, some say they'll get back into Tumblr, others are opting for lesser known places.
There's also another big question: do we all jump off the site now, or wait until its doors close indefinitely?
As for me: I'm just tired of it all.

There's no surprise I've always been opposed to aggressive social medias' phylosophies since their beginning and I do agree with the leaving party's reasoning: the migration's causes are exactly why I think these kind of sites are to be taken with a grain of salt and, in general, aren't a viable substitute to proper art sites. On top of all obvious problems they incentivate a fleeting, frenetic attitude towards content which in turn gets consumed superficially, without research, and therefore evolves into something that has to shock and catch someone's attention for a fleeting second before becoming utterly irrelevant and forgotten mere moments after.
This already shouldn't be the case of news reports, which, in their chase to grab someone's arm, are often prone to misleading facts; it definitely shouldn't also be the case of drawings, which are made to be contemplated, understood, they're a way to connect with whoever drew them.

Ideally, an artist's webpage should be permanent and give the opportunity to display a good chronology of their gallery and evolution; a free platform that meets these requirements is already utopic, but it becomes a more and more unreachable standard when the social media trend is to instead not be a fixed home for their users, rather a half-assed tent ready to be erected and then eradicated in mere months.
No one could ever experience a sense of true belonging this way; content becoming less and less elaborate is a clear consequence of it.

Point is, social medias aren't built around artists and their art. Duh. I don't know exactly when nor how nor why at some point in time everyone who could draw decided to unanimously fling themselves onto these sites, but now we're in this situation and we're getting slammed back and forth between photo platforms and news platforms and blogging platforms trying to clumsily fit into a pair of shoes not made for visual art. But the saddest aspect of it all is that at one point even artsite owners had the same idea: see Eclipse, and their even more recent adoration for AI-generated content- a clear spit on all artists' faces, completely going against their own original motto of having "art under the spotlight" and obviously met with disastrous backlash.
Ironically, FurAffinity seems to be the last standing giant of artsite golden ages, as despised as it is. It may be centered on anthro art, 99,9% of its content is frankly disgusting and personally I'd never use it outside advertising and displaying commissions, but it works as it should. In other times I'd add a "it works when online" joke here, but really I've never seen it seriously fall offline since the big 2010 outage. So it just works. 🤷
As of now FA isn't run by algorithms, putting every starting user on the same level; it still has a great pool of active members; it's still based on direct or public communication between artists: really, it does everything an art site should do without unnecessary frills. Members are incentivated to improve themselves, motivated for new ideas, and naturally driven towards artists with compatible interests and styles.
My friend Crym has often nailed the point in saying that the spark that made DeviantArt the perfect place for growing artists in its heyday (despite general mockery of being a factory of edgy teens' cringy drawings) was genuine desire among its users to connect and belong, allowing for a nurturing culture to grow providing lessons, ideas and inspirations. People didn't do art mainly for the mere sake of attention, but they did it for the art's sake itself, and the whole atmosphere of the site resonated that principle. It's staggering how social media could never provide nor recreate such enviroinment despite being based mainly on communication.

In theory, I shouldn't even care about all this: I am content with the amount of sites and galleries I'm currently managing and I don't need more, because by then I'd surely start leaving some behind so what's the point, nor less, because admittedly I still need places where people can easily contact me for business.
As expected, I have a hard time fitting into social medias the rare times in which I try them, I also seem to often have awful timing: I joined Twitter way back in late 2009, abandoned soon after out of boredom, then tried to revive it later in 2020 and was just about to get the jist of it when everything started to crumble down. Yyyeah, that does make me a tad frustrated...

Then there's the italian selfpublishing community, which prefers totally different sites. Trying to follow italian comic readers with my Lost Without You is terribly tiring, as this audience seems to always land their choice on the worst platforms ever for visual art.
For the greatest amount of time, there's been plenty of activity and opportunities on italian Facebook if you had a selfpublished comic: personal pages were full of updates and feedback, many groups were solely dedicated to visibility boosts, convention appeareances could be further advertised with event pages. Everything we did had a satisfying response from the public. I hated (still hate!) Facebook to the core, managing its pages with confusing rules in order to have something at least visually decent was one of the hardest feats on the site and its general layout made me vomit, but I endured because that's where italian con-goers and comic readers hung out. Then everything stopped abruptly around 2020: authors stopped updating their comic pages, readers stopped commenting. Without any loud announcement nor major drama to justify the sudden move, everyone left and FB became a ghost town. Part of me was happy, I did not have to care about that awful page anymore.
The other part of me got even more demotivated when I found out that everyone was migrating to Instagram, probably because it was optimized for mobile use, and for its very invasive but easily exploited tagging system. Instagram is the worst platform the italian comic community could ever choose: it automatically cuts or crops vertical comic pages into squares, doesn't allow horizontal images/strips, it's completely butchered in its desktop version. But everyone was there and people kept asking if we had an IG page when at cons, so I had to. Managing IG makes me even more depressed: I post one single LWY-centric picture a day, fill it with at least twenty tags, then close the tab and forget about it. Recieved activity is satisfactory, but at what cost. I can't even bring myself to reply to people, what's the fucking point.
While still being a side project, Lost Without You's presence on social media made me understand the constant tribulation that goes through networking and trend-following of this kind; I can't even fathom how stressful my situation would be if this was also the case for my own art or my own main business.

As of now, I've decided to keep using Twitter as a life update feed for my art/real life happenings, at least until it closes for good. This decision was taken mainly out of laziness, but I do have some ideas and solutions for when the platform will fall to the ground: first off, I think a Telegram channel as total substitute to my Twitter would be a good choice, as it would perfectly emulate an immediate news feed updatable both from mobile and desktop while still being of immediate access to people cos let's face it, who doesn't have Telegram? Also, it's not social media! Secondly, I was musing at the idea for some kind of RSS feed to go with VN, but I've reserched about it and talking with friends, it sounded like the ideal solution would instead be in-browser push notifications. I'm really fancying the concept of them appearing whenever new art/blog posts appear or when commissions open, but I need to plan them carefully because I certainly don't want them to be invasive, too frequent nor to be enabled without viewer's permission: if it would potentially bother me it'd surely bother others and therefore doesn't belong to a place like this.

How much has Twitter left before it becomes a ghost town, as it happened to MySpace and Skype in past internet eras? We'll be here to witness its end.

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.

Comics Live Again --November 19th 2021--

This year's Cartoomics has been peculiar: the first edition in which me and Lock haven't shared the booth with the rest of the Griffinest crew due to Covid restrictions being still implemented and many not even being able to freely travel to Milan. The pandemic-induced hiatus had taken a toll to the convention's board as well, resorting in a merge with another event, the Milan Games Week, in order to stay afloat.

Of course Cartoomics wasn't the only event that suffered major changes or had a hard time getting back on its feet after the forced hiatus; the temporary ban on big gatherings affected cons nationwide and consequently its population too, both attendees and sellers. It's difficult for all of us not to point out how different these experiences have become after only two years of pause, creating a clear distinction on how things were before and how they look nowadays. Even more grim, it feels like even though we all came back to our normal lives, we could never reclaim the exact same feeling comic conventions made us feel years prior.

Between December 2019 and January 2020 me, Lock and Diana were working hard to complete the fifth and last volume of Sinergy, our first big selfpublished project. The comic itself had gifted us many proud moments; it was well known on many Self Areas and Diana was even in contact with a small publishing company to bring the completed work to libraries, stepping further into a more affirmed side of the industry. On the side I was also colouring Lost Without You's third volume with Lock, which was also quickly gaining popularity among readers; days were full of work and also rather tiring, but we were all riding a huge wave of opportunity for our stories and the idea galvanized us enough to continue.
Continuing what had become a tradition for us Griffinest we had already reserved a booth at the Cartoomics convention for the upcoming March and both of our volumes were scheduled to premiere at the event; Cartoomics was the biggest comic con in Lombardia and second only to LuccaComics&Games on a national scale. Obviously many dreamed to host a booth at their Self Area and appearing among the participants, let alone being abitual attendees, was a good pedigree to show other cons you were the real deal; their booth prices were also rising year by year, something that made us butt heads with staff many times! To think that was the biggest of drawbacks back then. xP

During the last weekend of January 2020 we even managed to attend the Novegro Comic Festival, unbeknownst to me and Lock it had been probably the very last con that ever took place in Italy before news reports started talking about a new easily spreadable and very alarming flu. The rest is history, literally, as the whole world has experienced a two year lockdown whoch greatly affected daily lives and whose echoes are still felt today. Countless words have been spent to talk about this situation in many aspects, does it need any introduction at all?

Come March 2020 and the situation seemed to be dire for comic enthusiasts; as soon as our creative group heard about the big gathering ban due to safety concerns we all turned to the convention staff to know what was gonna be the fate of the biggest event we were waiting for: obviously the response was negative, Cartoomics 2020 had been cancelled and all the hours of hard work spent in order to complete both Sinergy and LWY in time for the even had been all in vain. Not only the news brought us down for that specific con, but it made us wonder if that would have been the fate of many other venues on national scale and how many more years this ban would have lasted. With total uncertainty about the situation at that time, who could've known? Would we have even been able to bring the completed Sinergy series live, or even continue LWY?
One thing was sure though, we were all stuck home and there was not much else we could do, really. Apology posts started flocking on many comic sites mentioning hiatuses, abrupt stops, cancelled plans; they continued well into spring and summer as more cons confirmed they would keep their gates closed for that year, from Naples to Rome.

At first there was a collective feeling of belonging among selfpublishers, trying to morally support eathother by extending their online presence (a lot of italian indie comics had been very active on Facebook up until that point): then as the lockdowns continued even that last ray of motivation faded and a lot of series simply vanished. Authors maybe got fed up and started doing something else. When, in October, news came that even LuccaComics&Games 2020 got cancelled artists just stayed silent; if a giant like Lucca was defeated then there was nothing more we could do.

The first half of 2021 saw most convention staff getting fed up of the situation; in fear that more years of hiatus would completely make comic cons irrilevant, many have struggled to find alternative ways.
A few events had their 2021 edition done in virtual reality, no idea how they rolled out; I know a few people even hosted booths, yet I doubt the selfpublishing area was even considered in these instances. Lucca 2021 did something more ambitious: it opened only in part with great limitations, but the ones who couldn't attend would have an occasion to find special Lucca-themed booths in local comic stores all over Italy. A good idea on paper that however didn't have much success in reality and that once again kept indies out of the picture.
Finally in September we started seeing a ray of light: Cartoomics was renovating their presence for 2021 with some novelties! Joining forces with the Milan Games Week they anticipated their usual dates and instead of March the convention would have taken place in November. Booths were pricy, there were many restrictions to adhere to, but hey, it was a live con once again! Me and Lock had to bring our comics there.

The staff had been swapped with another team that had no idea how to manage an Indie area: we were being treated like a a big commercial booth worth millions of Euros and needing a whole group of employees, with all the cumbersome delays that would bring. Several fellow selfpublishing artists 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. 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.
Despite this, general excitement for a con finally live ran through everyone and the event itself rolled out as smooth as butter; I had never seen such an interested audience! We sold out all our copies of both volume 1 and 2 of LWY, and people were happy to see Sinergy finally complete even of one year late. Attendees 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 passerbys saw coloured art they came in flock to watch us draw. We even got spotted by a youtuber, Nekofra, that showed genuine interest in LWY and reviewed our volumes online.

However it was clear that the event wasn't the same it has always been; a lot of people stopping by our booth noticed the distinctive lack of comics both in the Self Area and the rest of the event, and that we were one of the rare booths that still sold volumes. Looking around us, it was easy to notice that a lot of our colleagues were missing, not only the Griffinest buddies who couldn't come to share the booth with us but also other selfpublishing staples that we often met at cons and traded comics with. Many of them had been replaced by artisans that made fanart merchandise: original content was getting rare. No idea if we should have felt proud to be among the rare survivors or to fear the drastic content revolution that was clearly happening in the Indie area.
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 (which pretty surely fell on deaf ears). It was were we began, and it'll never be as those days.
Despite the excitement and the happiness to have finally attended a new live con, our return home has been bittersweet and we wonder if more cons will take a different direction, or will fuse and change completely after the pause we experienced. There's a fear that new generations will go on without experiencing a true pre-Covid comic con and that the memory will eventually, gradually fade into obscurity.

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"!

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