Like many artists, Katherine Brannock is rarely seen without her sketchbook. It's to her as a warm blankie was to "Peanuts"' Linus van Pelt. Brannock's sketchbook served as her escape from the graphic-design job she had three years ago. Every day during her hour-long lunch break, she'd open up to a page and was quickly able to clear her mind of any stress and focus her energy on a creative project that brought her joy.

Now those drawings can be seen in Katherine Brannock Sketchbooks: Volume One, a collection of the 28-year-old Mira Mesa artist's illustrations. Brannock has exhibited at Thumbprint Gallery, Subtext Gallery and other local art spaces and is currently apprenticing at Guru Tattoo. She was approached at last year's Comic-Con by Alberto Ruiz of Brandstudio Press, Trinquette Publishing and Xupuy Ediciones, a small Ecuadorian publishing company.

Ruiz offered her a book deal on the spot. But Brannock said no.

"He just approached me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this with me?' and it was super-gnarly because he didn't even give me a contract," she recalls.

"I've been screwed over so many times when I first started doing arts stuff so I was hesitant."

Ruiz quelled Brannock's doubts the Godfather way: He made her an offer she couldn't refuse. She'd retain the intellectual-property rights to her work, have a say in the layout and overall design of the book and receive 400 copies to sell or distribute however she wishes. Ruiz would keep 600 copies and distribute them in Paris, Ecuador and London, as well as sell them at conventions in other parts of the world.

"I just thought, You know what, if this does work out, the benefits are going to outweigh all the negative thinking that I could pour into this right now. So I just kind of did it and didn't look back," she says. "Eventually, one day a pallet of 400 books showed up in San Diego."

The book contains 44 whimsically dark illustrations, all made with a Bic pen. Brannock chose the office supply-closet staple because the pens were readily available at work. She didn't realize that in raiding the closet she'd stumble upon her new medium of choice.

"After a while, I became really obsessed with the Bic pen because I had no idea it could actually yield such a range of gradation just from the pressure that you use or impart on that paper media," she says. "It was an accident that those Bic ballpoint pens were just there and then I eventually fell in love with them and was obsessed with pushing it. It was, like, ‘Whoa! I can do this? What else can I do?'" 

Katherine Brannock Sketchbooks: Volume One can be found at, and at the artist's booth at Comic-Con.

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