Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million
ellenmillion

1993, part 2; The Business.

In 1993, I was in a car accident and broke my back. That's far, far less impressive than it sounds. My fifth lumbar was fractured compressively, things got a little squished, but everything that happened was below the main spinal cord bits. Or something - I always liked physics better than biology. Biology is squishy and random. Physics is logical. And only occasionally random. At any rate, I can still usually go hiking and canoeing and stuff if someone strong enough to pick up some of my slack is along. It's not that big of a deal in the scope of things, but you can't deny something like that doesn't change you.

For me, it was a seize the day kind of revelation. (Once I got past a good bout of self-pity and despair, of course. I wrote dark poetry and am thankful all over again that I wasn't on the Internet then.)



Now, cast your brain back to the last of these posts - to Queen's Own, specifically. The newsletter had a section for penpals; people seeking other people to write real letters on real paper to. I'd seen penpal ads before, in the local Ruralite (um, an Electric collective newsletter), but they all had interests like Jesus and ponies and Barbie and New Kids on the Block. Here were penpals whose interest lists were identical to mine! Fantasy novels, dragons, Misty, art, writing... I had to try this! It was the perfect distraction from physical therapy and frustration with my lack of mobility.

So I started to write letters. In many, many ways, this blog has replaced the letters. I would just chat about my day, or comment on some current issue. (No, not politics, usually, more likely some recent literary release) I'd mention my family, complain about school, tell them about my pets, and include folded up xerox copies of whatever I was currently drawing. Gee, kind of like this. Anyway, I was way too cheap to buy stationery. And I liked to draw these borders for newsletters and things.

Bang. A few clandestine moments with the copymachine in the school library, and I had halfway decent stationery on white xerox paper.

My penpals ate it up and fed my ego to a point that, when one of them casually said, 'you should sell this!" I didn't think it was that crazy of an idea. In fact, it was a great idea! I sat down and did math trying to figure out what to charge, how much it would cost, what kind of sales I'd need to have to break even. I got the stationery made at a copystore downtown, plain black toner on a flecked, grayscale paper, cut in half from a standard letter-sized parchment. I nearly cried over how horrible they looked when I picked up my order, because nearly half of them were smeared and ruined. He re-ran the job, I think, and was having terrible machine problems, because I was using those smeared sheets for probably 10 years as scrap paper, there were so many misprints.

I put together a one-page sample sheet. The text was printed on a dot-matrix, cut up with scissors and taped onto a page. Shrunk down images of four designs were slapped on, and I sent the copies to my penpals. I took a bag full of samples to school in a fit of bravery and sold a giddy $80 worth of stationery on the spot. I think that was even my first commission - one of my teachers paid me to do custom stationery for his daughters.

There is no thrill quite like the thrill of getting your first check for art in mail. There's this sort of fevered rush to it. And then another one came. And then a third, an order from someone I *didn't* know, who'd gotten a bad, bad xerox copy of the sample sheet from one of their penpals. I put an ad in the Queen's Own member section, and got a dozen requests for catalogs. Some of them even turned into orders.

There was no going back.





This was the first piece I designed specifically for stationery. It remains one of the top stationery designs, so I must have done something right. I detest the square edgy bits. Hello, inconsistant inking.


The two on the left were the final two of the first four designs I offered. The barely discernable text between them says 74%, because that's what they needed to scale down to to fit on the page correctly. The border on the right was for Queen's Own, I think... that hand makes me cringe.


I discovered another gem this year, Moonlight Masquerade. MM was a publication put out by Nicole Black, staple-bound collections of art and writing that played to every single passion I have. Romance! Fantay! Lavish use of illustration! More on that in 1994. I think I was trying a brush pen on this one.


This was one of those doodles that took on a life of its own.


One of the many things I wanted to do.




I even played with color on it.


This was as much as I did. Maybe one other page of sketches. I was way too lazy to do the whole process. I don't know how laylalawlor does it.


This one is rather random. I read a lot more sci fi than I drew it, and drew more fantasy than I read. I couldn't tell you why.


Through Queen's Own, I also found small press. It seems like there's a lot of horror genre small press, moreso than the more squishy/happy fairy tale genre that I'm so enamored of. But I was a whore for the thrill of being published, and would gleefully trade ad space for illustrations, feeling like I won at both ends of the deal!


I did a number of self-portraits this year. (Which is sort of tickling at my muse with ideas for an entry to the FAE art show...)


A more elfy version.


I'm not left-handed, I was drawing myself in a mirror.


This file is marked 1993, but I think I did it later. I can't make out a date on this piece, but the pieces bracketing it are both 93s. I may have come back and done it at a later time. At any rate, I figured you guys wouldn't split hairs, and this is a good bridge to 1994. Tomorrow. Or maybe Monday.
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