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Saturday, July 23, 2011

ComiCon Dispatch: Painting Batgirl with Joelle Jones

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Sat, Jul 23, 2011 at 11:32 AM

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Everywhere at ComiCon is a mob. Pushing past movie company booths in a mob, stopping to snap photos of sexy Tinkerbell girl in a mob, waiting for the crosswalk light to change in a mob. Ironically, one of the quiet eddies in the convention center is Artist Alley, where the people who actually drew the comics fans are here to snag sit hunched over tables working on sketches.

Portland artist Joelle Jones was far in the corner yesterday morning. After dropping out of Portland Northwest College of Art when she ran out of money four years ago, Jones started illustrating comics and has had wild success. No one is more surprised at that trajectory than Jones, 31, who is still wrapping her head around the fact that four years into her career, she's suddenly a lauded "special guest" at ComiCon (which means: Free hotel room, her own panel session, and a helper who keeps stopping by the table to ask if she wants water).

"It's pretty awesome," says Jones, as she colors a Spiderman with pens she keeps in a makeup case. "Someone at the airport had my name on a piece of paper. That was the highlight of my life. I took a picture." Her career has been greatly helped by living in Portland. She was able to jump into the industry after her portfolio to a someone from Portland-based Dark Horse Comics at a Portland comics convention; The writer of two of her recent books, Jamie Rich, lives just around the block from her in NW Portland.

Now, Rich hovers around her table like a stage manager, saying she should really be charging more for her sketches. While everyone else is wandering around soaking up the eye candy of ComiCon, artists like Jones work long hours to try and make up their expenses by selling original art. Jones has a notebook with a long list of art requests from fans paying $40 for a black and white piece and $80 for color.

"I drew all day yesterday. My brain is just fried," she tells Rich, looking down at the next client's request. "What color is Batgirl? Is she purple? Or more black?"

All day Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday, she'll be eking out a living a page at a time.

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