Made My Weekend

This past weekend, I had the honor or being a guest at two one day shows back to back.  On Saturday, I was at the DuPage Mighty Con Comic Con and Sunday I was at the Madison Mighty Con Comic Con.  Both shows were fantastic!  It was great to get back out there, cautiously seeing and meeting people physically again.

First, I’d like to announce at both shows, we SOLD OUT of our first comic, Eisner Nominated Stanley’s Ghost.  That’s absolutely fantastic!!  And we didn’t sell it to just adults with kids, but a lot of teens and up were buying the book for themselves.  From our first convention back since over a year and a half, the Milwaukee Comic Con, a fan came up to me and said, “I loved the book overall, but really loved the bat”.  I’m not going to give anything away if you haven’t read it yet.  But that was a great feeling!  Another piece we SOLD OUT of was the Original Hand Colored Louie and Louie Variant pieces!  That little gator is getting lots of love, and I couldn’t be happier.  Since starting my own studio and creating my own characters, when people like stuff I’ve created, it’s SUCH a great feeling.  I can’t put it into words, it’s just a feeling.  Which leads me to what made my weekend.

At the Madison Mighty Con Comic Con, it started off slow.  But in the middle of show, we got hit pretty hard for about 3 hours.  One person in particular I was helping out really just stood out and made my weekend.  A few years ago I started introducing my characters to conventions.  It was nerve wrecking.  You don’t know how people are going to react to your characters.  But a couple of years ago, I was set up at that show and introduced one of my new characters (at that time), Agatha, the Candy Witch.  Agatha doesn’t eat children, but she changes them into “Candy Kids or Kids of Candy”.  So this past Sunday, I was helping one particular young lady and she was telling me about a piece I had years ago that had a few characters on it, but all were witches.  I showed her the piece, Natasha’s Witches, but she said no, that’s not it.  She’s trying to explain the piece to me and it sounded a little familiar but at the same time, didn’t.  But then she said the background looked like it was water colored.  Right there, I knew what she was looking for.  I brought her over to where I had the piece she was looking for and showed her.  “THAT’S IT, THAT’S IT!  I’ve been looking for this piece since that first time I saw it years ago”!  Ok, so let me tell you, that was an amazing feeling!  Someone was looking for this piece, remembered it and sought me out at a convention for it.  That, really made my weekend.  So if you haven’t guessed it, she bought the piece and took a couple of my business cards…lol!

That was such a great feeling, I don’t know how else to put that.  But this goes to show you, you never know how your characters are going to impact others.

So to everyone who I saw this weekend and came out to BOTH shows, thank you.  Again it was great to get back out there and see you all again, and we’re looking forward to the next time we see you.  That being said, I’m updating our show appearances for the rest of the year today, so don’t forget to check out the “event’s” page here for an updated list of where we’ll be.

Meeting MKE @ the Makers Market

Sunday Aug. 22

With convention slowly opening up, I can’t wait to get out there and meet/see you guys again.  It’s been a long time for all of us.  I’m branching out a little bit to meet more people but in the Milwaukee area.  Why not, I live here now.  It’s about time I get out there and meet MKE a little bit more.

In addition to conventions, from now through December, I’m setting up at the Milwaukee Makers Market at Discovery World.  This is not your typical convention or even a craft show.  This is a show dedicated to artisans from the Milwaukee area, showing off their talents.  There’s a little bit of everything in there.

The Makers Market is only once a month at Discovery World and a FREE event for everyone (yes, it’s family friendly)!  Yup, you read that right, A FREE EVENT!

If you wanted to see the dates we’ll be set up, go to my “events” page right here and check it out.  There’s also a couple of conventions posted too we’ll be at.

So if you’re looking to get out on a Sunday for a couple of hours, stop by the Milwaukee Makers Market at Discovery Cove on those dates I have posted. Very low key and relaxing.
Hope to see you at the next event.

Eisner Award Nominee

Stanley’s Ghost, our first comic featuring Stanley, Natasha, Chester, Baby Fang, Bandit and Billy is nominated for an Eisner Award.  The Eisner Awards are like the Academy Awards, but for comic books.  It’s a huge honor even to be nominated.  So to hear that Stanley’s Ghost is nominated for Best Single Issue, I was extremely happy!  Speechless (if you can believe that…lol).  It’s such a good feeling to see your characters grow up from an idea in your head to being nominated in a comic book.

However, I didn’t create this comic alone.  Yes, I created the characters and backgrounds, but the comic was a team effort.  And I’d like to thank each and every one of them.

Co-writer/Story: Paul Storrie
Artist: Dave Alvarez
Created/Co-writer/Story/Colorist: Jeff Balke (me)
Letterer: Janice Chiang

I also want to give a HUGE shout out too Sandy King and Sean at Storm King Productions for the opportunity to create this book through them.  Without you guys, this book wouldn’t see the light of day.  THANK YOU guys!  THANK YOU team!!!  Now let’s GET THAT WIN 😉

Returning to Conventions

I’m very happy to announce, that this month, I’m returning back to conventions.  However slowly, but I do have a couple one day show set up so far.  With the long tough year we all just went though (and still going through), I need to get out.  Most of us do.

The first show I have lined up is the Mighty Con Milwaukee Comic Con, June 26th.  The venue is taking precautions along with the show, stating that everyone must wear a mask.  But, they are not limiting how many people go on the floor (as of now).  At my booth I’ll have of course my mask on and we’ll have sanitizer for anyone who wants to use it at my booth.

I’m debuting new ARToons and the NEWLY matted Original Hand Colorings along with our first comic, Stanley’s Ghost.  However, I’m going one step further and I’ve invited my cartoonist, Eric C. Martin to join me with his own table at the show.  So you can see the cartoonist who’s been drawing Stanley and Friends ARToons and comic strips.  Since we have a couple of our weekly strips in the back of the comic Stanley’s Ghost, he’ll also be glad to sign it too.

I’m coming back FULL FORCE but focusing on the studio.
I’m looking forward to seeing you at the show.

For more info and ticket info click here: Mighty Con Milwaukee

HIRING Cartoonist/Illustrator for Comic

You might remember, that back in October of 2020, we had our very first Halloween One Shot comic debut through Storm King Productions.  I’m honored to announce we’ve been asked to create another one shot comic featuring, Stanley and Friends.  But this one will be released in Sept (a couple weeks earlier).

Right now we’re finishing the writing portion of the script.  Next, it goes off to the artist, which is where this blog comes in.  I’m looking for a cartoonist who can draw in the cartoon style.  Think Mickey Mouse, Garfield or Peanuts, something along those lines.

If you’re interested, please send a link of your work to jeff@jeffbalkestudios.com.

I’m looking for someone who knows how to tell a story with pictures.

This is a paid gig and there is a deadline.  Again, if you’re interested, please send me a link of your work too: jeff@jeffbalkestudios.com

The Job of the Job

When I’m at an event or a guest speaker somewhere, there’s one question I get asked the most which is, “how do you break in the business”?  I wish I could tell you there was an answer for this one, but really, there isn’t.  I’ve mentioned this before, but what I always tell people who are eager to do what they love as a career, is just keep on doing it.  Keep on doing it until you get sick of it and you want to quit, then keep on pushing after that.  Whatever you do, don’t give up.

It’s difficult to take a hobby that you enjoy doing and make it into a career, because now, you have to WORK at it.  That may not be true for everyone, but usually because you want to make it into how you put food on the table, you really do have to work at it now.  It’s not something you can just push aside and come back too later.  I’ve been there.  Taking something that I loved to do and making it into a career.

When I first started out in the comic industry coloring comic books, I had two full time jobs (one of which was more time consuming than the other).  But I worked retail management at Crate and Barrel  in Chicago (busy store).  You’re constantly doing something, running around, stocking and all the fun stuff that comes with retail…lol.  But I also was collecting comics years before I started working there and wanted to make “comic books” or art my career.  I enjoyed it and wanted to work for myself.  I think it was about 8 years earlier I started teaching myself to color digitally.  They didn’t have the schools they have now or the YouTube presence they have today.  Now you can look up how to do anything basically on YouTube.  So I purchased a few CD-Roms (for those of us who remember those…lol) and books (those too) and taught myself.  That by itself was a full time job.  But I was determined to do it and MAKE it.

In 2009, I got “let go” of the retail job and I was already working fulltime in comics with a company and on my first major professional comic.  Years to follow after that I thankfully worked on hundreds of comics (coloring them) from Marvel to indy companies.  But now I’ve stared a whole new adventure and the whole process all over again.  I was working in comics for years, but it really slowed down, and realized that my passion and heart was in something else…animation.  I “let go” of working fulltime in comics and started my new career in animation.  It’s been a rocky start, but that’s just all part of it.

You just never know where things are going to lead you.  The way I “broke in” may not be the same way someone else you ask broke in.  But the biggest take out of this is, never lose sight of your passion.  Follow your heart.  That is how you will break in.  It won’t be overnight, it will take time, maybe even years.  But you can’t give up.  You may have to work a fulltime job and your career.  It may seem difficult and impossible, but believe me, it’s not.

I’m really excited about what my studio has coming out soon.  Something different, something unique.  This is something I never felt in the comic industry (NOT in a bad way).  But I kept reaching for more and wanted the characters to come to life on screen.  And now, I’m on my way to making that happen.

Again, DON’T GIVE UP!  It’s all just the Job of the Job.

Social Media ARToons

One way I sell and promote my ARToons is by posting them on Social Media.  What are ARToons?  These are what I call the cartoon artworks of my characters like Stanley Squirrel and friends and all the other characters from Jeff Balke Studios.
I just took the words Cartoon and Art, mashed them together to make: ARToons.

In addition to selling the ARToons on my BalkeStudiosART.com store, you’ll be able to “claim” them right off of my Facebook and Instagram pages.  Now why did I use the word “claim”? Well you’re not buying them right off of FB and putting your credit card info down on either site.  Instead, when I post an ARToon, simply let me know you want it (by saying claim, or I’d like that one, or however you ‘d like to let me know) and I’ll pull it aside for you.  On Sunday of that week, I’ll tally up how many ARToons you’ve claimed, add up the price, add shipping (which I do combine shipping on multiple purchases starting at $5) and send you an invoice either with PayPal or Square.  It’s that simple.

All ARToons will will be posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and will have a limited quantity specifically for the Social Media posts.  Some will also be discounted as a little special for these deals.

I hope this all made sense…lol!  If you ever have any questions about how this works, you can always shoot me an email or send me a PM on any of the social media pages I have.

Do What You Have Too

Some of you have asked me, “why do you always post about prints and merchandise”?  The simple answer is…merchandising and to help bring money into the studio.  Having your own business or in my case, studio, is not cheap.  You basically have to do what you can to bring money in (legally…haha).  One of the quickest and best ways I know, is simply by opening up an online store of some kind and sell through there.  Pre-Covid, I’d set up at conventions around the country and sell the ARToons and talk with people about the studio and characters.  Now that’s the REAL “facetime”, “facebook”, whatever you want to call it.  Talking to people face to face.  I love that.

When I decided to open up my own online stores, one of artwork (BalkeStudiosArt.com) and the other merchandise (through TeeSpring), I knew it was going to be extra work, but work that I’d love doing.  It’s not that I just post an image on a t-shirt and call it a day.  No no, it’s much more than that.  You have to set it up, design the graphic and choose which items are best you want to sell.  I make it sound easy, but it’s pretty time consuming.  So when I post a piece of merchandise like a t-shirt, there’s been a couple of hours invested in that piece, not to mention creating the art itself.  Same goes for the ARToons (the cartoon art) I sell.

Not by any means am I complaining.  I’m just letting you know why I post a lot about the ARToons and merchandise.  I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished so far.  Even though the animation side is taking longer than I anticipated, I’m not letting it get me down.  There are SO many other ways my characters are reaching you guys.  We have our weekly comic strips featuring Stanley and Friends starting back up coming this March with a WHOLE different approach and story.  Of course like I’ve been talking about, I have merchandise and ART so you can take home and enjoy the characters and art at home all the time.  Plus a few different projects coming out this year.

If you haven’t thought of it already, please check out my two stores by going to the “store” button on this site OR click:
TEESPRING (Merchandise Store)
BalkeStudiosArt.com

Building the Team

I remember as a kid, sitting down and watching Saturday morning cartoons and Disney’s Silly Symphonies among other, religiously all the time, every day.  I was fascinated how amazing everything looked from the painted background to how the characters moved realistically.  Of course, being a kid you don’t realize how much effort and time is put into creating an animation.  One day, years later when I was a teenager, I realized what makes me happy.  It was the art of animation and the process of creating it.  Recently, I found that love again and now finally “Building the Team” for my very own studio.  I’m not just looking for people to DO it, but people who can contribute and bring something to the table.  I do have a vision, buy I can’t do it myself.  Hey, not even Disney did everything himself.

Animation is a lengthy process and takes time.  It has steps.  Which is why, I’m taking things step by step making sure nothing gets missed.  The first step in the animation process is the story and Story Artists or Storyboard Artists.  These are people who can tell a story with pictures, no words.  I’m not only looking for great art, but storytellers who can entertain.  Know how to tell a story.  Originally storyboards were done by drawing on what looks like flashcards which were then pinned to a wall in order from beginning to end, showing the entire animation as individual pictures.  However, we’re in the digital age where everything is done on the computer.  This is the preferred way I’d like the boards created.  They’re easier to follow along and create the animatics.

If your interested in creating storyboards with me and serious, please go to the career page and fill out the info.  If you have a link to storyboards or animatics you’ve already created, please add that too, when filling out the info.

You may be wondering why I gave you simple explanations on what storyboarding is.  Yes, I am looking for people to help create my vision however, not everyone who reads this is an animator or even knows the process.  I want this blog to be entertaining for everybody while at the same time “building the team”.  Who says you can’t get down to business, and have fun too?