Alyssa Berg on CXC 2016

Editor’s Note: Alyssa Berg joined the Comics Workbook crew at CXC 2016 as one of our workshop leaders. Comics Workbook hosted four sessions over the course of the festival, and Alyssa presented on her process, her painted comics, and her use of the 4- and 9-panel grids. She led an exercise using the 4- and 9-panel grids that challenged and excited the attending comics makers, including students from the Columbus College of Art and Design.


A video from the exercise she led:

And now, the rest of Alyssa’s CXC experience in her own words.



Me tabling at CXC 2016

My First Con

At the airport on my way home from Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, I bought a legal pad because I had accidentally checked my sketchbook in my suitcase. I wanted to record all of the details from my four days in Columbus ASAP – I didn’t want to forget any of the moments that made CXC such a wonderful experience. Over the past week I have been able to zoom-out and see what shaped many of my positive experiences: access to comics history and connecting with the comics community. 

Upon arrival in Columbus, my first stop was the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. I appreciated having a couple days pre-expo to enjoy the reading room, archive and museum. The Winsor McCay exhibit was stunning. On the archive tour, it was amazing to be standing inside the chilly room filled with flat files, books and boxes that house the world’s largest cartoon & comics collection. I was able to see some rare gems at the Billy Ireland. 


Terry & the Pirates, Milton Caniff

CXC was my first time taking part in a convention and I was struck by the spirit of the greater comics community. The people – comics-makers, event organizers, curators, publishers, students, teachers, librarians, and volunteers – all came together to celebrate comics and create an open and interesting atmosphere filled with great energy. There was a variety of events (including, of course, the book expo held over the weekend in the beautiful Columbus Metropolitan Library) where I had the pleasure of connecting and having conversations with many lovely comics-humans, including the Comics Workbook crew. Some strong bonds were formed, and I’m especially grateful for that.


Dinner with some of the CW crew

Thank you to the organizers of CXC for hosting such a great event, thank you to the staff and volunteers at both the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum & Library and the Columbus Metropolitan Library.  Also a big thank you to Frank Santoro at Comics Workbook for sending me to CXC with the CW crew. 


A selection of books from CXC


Alyssa Berg makes comics in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her work HERE.

For the rest of our complete CXC coverage check out the special “round up” report HERE.

Art Trip: In A Series


Lynda Barry, installation shot from IN A SERIES

The Adam Baumgold Gallery, tucked away in a residential building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is a small gallery that regularly shows the work of comic book artists. Past solo exhibits include Lynda Barry, Charles Burns and Chris Ware. The current exhibit, IN A SERIES (through August 12), includes artwork from these artists and 39 (!) other 20th century and contemporary artists.  IN A SERIES showcases original comics pages, drawings, collages, paintings, sculptures and photographs.

I was drawn to the two large Chris Ware pages (27.5” x 20” each) from Building Stories (Pantheon Graphic Novels, 2012). They looked great in the space – substantial and easy to read from a distance, as if they were made to be hanging on a gallery wall. It was a pleasure to see Ware’s originals with the blue pencil lines that remain under the perfectly inked pages (pictured below).


Chris Ware, Oak Park Newspaper – 7. Old Friend, Ink, blue colored pencil on paper

It was a treat to see original artwork by Julie Doucet, Lynda Barry and Ernie Bushmiller but my surprise-favorite from the exhibit was the series by Renée French, works from her graphic novel H Day (Picture Box, 2010). The graphite drawings by French are tiny (2.75” x 2.25” each) and perfect (pictured below).


The challenge of IN A SERIES is the amount of art versus the size of the space. There is a lot of work packed into the two-room gallery, with some pieces placed in window sills and other pieces hung in the narrow hallway connecting the rooms. Despite the challenge, this eclectic group show is worth a visit. It (likely) has something for everybody.

Here’s the line-up:
Lynda Barry, Jennifer Bartlett, Bette Blank, Joe Brainard, Charles Burns, Ernie Bushmiller, Genevieve Castree, Joe Coleman, Robert Crumb, Julie Doucet, Roy Deforest, Marcel Dzama, Rafael Ferrier, Tony Fitzpatrick, Renee French, Sue Gerard, Chester Gould, Rodney Alan Greenblat, Red Grooms, George Grosz, Alex Katz, Edward Koren, Annette Lemieux, Tala Madani, Maryan, Mary Lynn Massoud, Richard McGuire, Jim Nutt, Jennie Ottinger, Christina Ramber, Auri Ramirez, Emile Selder, Seth, Laurie Simmons, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Chris Ware, John Wesley, David Wajnarowicz, Time Wehrle, B. Wurtz & Joseph Yoakum.

You can see more images from the show on the gallery website, HERE, and visit it in person through August 12th.

Alyssa Berg makes comics in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her work HERE.

Sunday is a Good Day to Visit a Museum: Part Three

This is the final part of a series of process meditations inspired by a trip to The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC. Catch up with Part One: Ritual in Preparing the Space/It’s the Simple Things, and Part Two: Meditation on the Grid/Free Your Mind


Part 3: Pass the Mic/Other People’s Processes
For the final installment of the series reflecting on my visit to The Rubin Museum of Art, I posed a question to MariNaomi, Simon Hanselmann, Sophie Yanow and Vanesa R. Del Rey:
Will you share any ritual, meditation, or devotion in your artistic process?

Inking/Work in Progress by MariNaomi

MariNaomi‘s most recent memoir comic is Turning Japanese (2dcloud, 2016). She is the creator and curator of the Cartoonists of Color Database and the Queer Cartoonists Database.

I’m not sure that I have any kind of ritual/meditation per se, but I am very habitual in my work days. Basically I start the day with an early-morning jog (at 6:30), then breakfast. Then I take care of things that might otherwise distract me: dishes, bills, emails. I don’t really get creative until after lunchtime. I’m generally in the zone from the afternoon until evening when my husband gets home at 7 or 8. If I’m on deadline (or super inspired), I’ll eat dinner with him, then get back to work until bedtime at 10:30 pm.
I used to beat myself up about not working in the mornings, but I’ve finally accepted that it’s my routine.
Oh, and my talisman is drinking lots and lots of tea.

Untitled Strip by Simon Hanselmann

Simon Hanselmann‘s most recent collection is Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam (And Other Stories) (Fantagraphics, 2016). Megg, Mogg & Owl is updated Wednesdays at VICE.
my main ritual is trying to clear my mind so i can focus and be fully absorbed by the project at hand.
i usually try to clear my inbox in the morning before i start working otherwise i’ll feel guilty and flustered all day.
cigarettes are a huge part of the ritual. also red bull, sadly.
i really need to change up my rituals to something a bit more healthy…
fuck it though, as long as the work is getting done and i’m hitting my deadlines.
i will most likely be dead in a few years…
I’m on day 10 of no red bull.
I am a recovering energy drink addict.

Journal Comic by Sophie Yanow from

Sophie Yanow was the 2014-15 fellow at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Her most recent book is War of Streets and Houses (Uncivilized Books, 2014).
The one thing that I do that has kind of become a “ritual,” is when I do journal comics, I do them on graph paper, and I draw 6 square panels out on the graph paper before I start drawing or writing. I generally draw/write directly in the squares. The journal comics are always in a 6 panel grid, so I’ve considered printing out paper that has the 6 panel grid already on it, but I think that drawing the grid
out gets me into the proper state of “I’m going to draw/write a journal comic now.” It’s like a trigger. So drawing the panels first is the ritual/meditation that starts the journal comic.

Jana, Warm-up drawing by Vanesa R. Del Rey

Vanesa R. Del Rey is an artist and illustrator for Hit comics (Boom! Studios). Her artwork has also been in Marvel, DC and Dark Horse comics.
My artistic process – Discipline. I work 6 days a week for about 10 hours a day, this is a constant but my schedule is kind of organic, it changes every once in a while. I usually do chores and have breakfast/check emails before I sit down to draw. Sometimes I work out before sitting down too. My ritual to get the juices flowing involves smoking ganja and doing a warm up sketch. This warm up sketch can be anything. It’s just a thing to unclog my mind and loosen up my joints. I just spill something out… I give myself about an hour or so. This happens usually when I’ve just started working on a book. After a couple of weeks I skip on the warm ups and dive straight into my pages when I sit down. I get faster as I progress, the shapes become familiar therefore I don’t have to spend as much time searching for them. Once in a while I also do cool down sketches after a day’s work. They are usually just ideas I have floating around that I use to not get bored. For example if I’m working on the computer for a long period of time I like to switch it up and start a painting or do a sketch in my sketchbook.

I guess the constant factor to begin for me is the ganja, I’m a big smoker. I would call it a ritual/meditation. My creative energy is unpredictable, it drives me and not the other way around, but my ritual is the method I have found to channel that energy, to make good use of it. It’s an incredible help for the stress of deadlines too! I’m always on a tight deadline.
Devotion is a given to me…doing my work is my life. I wouldn’t do anything else.
Alyssa Berg makes comics in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her work HERE.

Sunday is a Good Day to Visit a Museum: Part Two

This series began last week with Part One: Ritual in Preparing the Space/It’s the Simple Things – now we are drawn deeper into the museum and into a new process meditation.


My last stop at The Rubin Museum of Art was the exhibit Gateway to Himalayan Art. What immediately drew my attention were 4 pieces showing the stages of a thangka (scroll) painting. Thangka paintings most often depict deities or mandalas and are used in meditation practice. The paintings are not an expression of an individual artist; they are made by following a strict set of rules. Underneath the forms and colors is a complex grid based on precise measurements according to which deity is being depicted. In the process pieces at the Rubin, areas of the underlying grid of sacred geometry are left visible.

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Stages of a Painting (Saraswati) Buchung Nubgya 2014

I love seeing works in progress or unfinished artwork–a chance to spy the secrets that lie underneath the surface. But also, look at that grid! Yes, it’s true I am a student of Frank Santoro and, no, I am not going to go deep into practical and/or theoretical grid-talk. If you want that, get it from the man himself (the comments section is full of gems, too). If you prefer having your information in hard copy, it’s available that way, also.

As a person who has spent many+ hours drawing and re-drawing and drawing again the grid, it was an easy jump in my mind from this:

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Stages of a Painting (Saraswati) Buchung Nubgya 2014

to this:

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Tintin Grid Map by Frank Santoro


Part 2: Meditation on the Grid/Free Your Mind

Recently I was in the audience at a panel discussion where someone asked the artists about ‘creative block’ and how to over-come it. The answers ranged from ‘just getting off of the couch’ to knowing that there are ups and downs in creative work. If I might add my own answer to the question no one asked me:

Sometimes my mind is unwell, or full of complicated messy things or unable to think of new ideas (‘creative block’, I guess?). When I am in this state, I let my wild, creative mind rest. One way to do this is by going into a gentle analytical and physical practice. I sit down at my desk and pre-draw pages of panels and grids. Similar to preparing my workspace as mentioned in Part One, pre-drawing panels and grids is a simple concentration-meditation that doesn’t require much thought (common theme: freedom from the mind!). I get out my ruler, triangle and compass and start to push my pencil across the page making the prescribed lines. I am not inventing them. There is a formula and I’m following that formula.

In my comics, I almost exclusively use a four-panel grid. Through years of repetition comes ease and comfort in getting to a single-pointed mind-concentration. In this concentration I’m not working out story ideas or fixing problems. I’m just there, holding the pencil in my hand, running it along the ruler. On certain days I’ve ended up with a stack of 20 pages of panels with varying elements of the grid or sometimes a single page with different color lines on top of lines on top of lines… It is an easy practice that is calming and allows some space to open up.  And at the end of the practice, as an added bonus to a relaxed mind, I have pages at the ready for the days when the last thing I want do is draw a straight line.

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Look for Part 3 of this ongoing series next week!

Read Part One HERE.


Alyssa Berg makes comics in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her work HERE.

Sunday is a Good Day to Visit a Museum: Part One

On Sunday I visited The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC. The Rubin shows ancient to contemporary painting, sculpture, and ritual objects from the Himalayas and surrounding region with their permanent collection focusing on Tibetan art. My objective was to see the exhibit Please Altar Everything, work by avant-garde performance artist and musician (Throbbing GristlePsychic TVGenesis Breyer P-Orridge. The exhibit includes installation, sculpture, sigils, altars and gold-leafed paintings. As I walked through the exhibit, I felt especially connected to the sculptural, tactile altarpieces (some with tags that said: please touch!) and sigils (used in spells and for manifesting). Both altars and sigils are creative acts steeped in ritual and devotion.


Kali in Flames, sigil, 1986

After the Genesis show, I spent some solitary time in the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, the highlight of another exhibit at The Rubin called Sacred Spaces. It is a contemplative space – dark, with drone-y Buddhist chanting and an altar filled with ornate objects of worship.

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The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

I also had the chance to explore some of the permanent collection of the Rubin – statues of deities and paintings made with the most vibrant and saturated pigments.

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The visit to the Rubin brought my attention to ritual, meditation and devotion in artistic practice – in other people’s practice and my own.


Part 1: Ritual in Preparing the Space/It’s the Simple Things

The daily act of going to my desk and preparing the space is an important ritual. It is the practice before the practice, the thing I do before I do the thing I do. Is calling my studio area a sacred space too heavy-handed? Well, my hands are heavy holding all this Palo Santo and sage that l am burning to clear any bad vibrations from the aforementioned sacred space.

Most of the time when I sit down at my drawing table, it’s a mess. Like, a ridiculous mess from the previous night. I’m often impressed by the chaos I can create in a short amount of time. I start drawing/painting with an organized and peaceful space but as I make what I’m making, I’m not thinking about my love of an organized and peaceful space. I’m grabbing, mixing color, crumpling pages, digging for scraps, sharpening my pencils letting the shavings lie where they fall, cutting/trimming with abandon, etc. By the end of the night when I’m finished working, I don’t have the will or desire to clean, but I usually have a finished page. The next day the act of cleaning and organizing is my pre-drawing ritual, a simple meditation. It is an act that requires care and attention but not a lot of thought. It’s gives me a moment to see, appreciate and take stock of my supplies, clean my brushes, file my scraps away and put pens & pencils back in their homes. By clearing the physical space I clear the mental/emotional/psychic space in preparation for a new blank page that lies ahead.

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Look for Part 2 of this ongoing series next week!


Alyssa Berg makes comics in Brooklyn, NY. You can find her work HERE.