July 8 2015 01:35 PM

The San Diego artist on MakingComics.com, "Hipster Picnic" and the curse of his comic-strip arm tattoo

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Making Comics Worldwide illustration by Patrick Yurick

Everyone should be able to pick up comic-book making by tomorrow. So says Patrick Yurick, the San Diego artist and educator behind MakingComics.com, a project that provides free comic-book-making materials to the masses.

"We're trying to solve big problems with comic-book education," says Yurick, a former teacher at High Tech High Chula Vista and an idealistic reformer who believes access to art literacy is a basic human right. "We feel a responsibility because our URL gets a lot of hits every day from people searching Google for How do I make comics?'" 

Still in its infancy, the site is a library of curated links to free, high-quality educational materials. It's also the home of the Making Comics Gutter Talk podcast. Hosted by South Park resident Adam Greenfield, Gutter Talk features interviews with both big-time and independent comic-book artists who share their real-life stories of how they made it in an industry that seems nearly impossible to break into.

"If you can hustle you can make it work," says Rachel Dukes on the most recent episode of the podcast. Dukes is an independent comic-book artist who grew up in San Diego and recently moved to Los Angeles to support her career. The upbeat episode is a good example of how the podcast works to motivate young and up-and-coming artists to keep at the craft.

Yurick's future plans for Making Comics Worldwide, the organization behind the website and podcast, is to get nonprofit status and become a leader in providing free comic-book-making resources in the form of grant-funded workshops, classes, panels and other online and real-world projects.

In part, his motivation for launching Making Comics Worldwide came from his experience opening Little Fish Comic Book Studio with Alonso Nuñez in 2012. While Yurick still supports the concept behind the fee-driven Ocean Beach learning center, he was more interested in figuring out how to provide comic-art education to those who can't afford it.

Members of the Making Comics crew will be leading an educational "Storytelling in Comics" panel at Comic-Con this year at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at the Convention Center's Room 8. Yurick says he hopes to gain exposure for the project and hook up with other comic artists who share his goal of lifting the curtain on the comic craft.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done," he says.

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A page from Hipster Picnic in which character Steve McGuin joins the Zombie Army

Like most creatives, Yurick has a harsh inner critic that kept him from making his own comic book for years. So what finally gave him the guts to go for it? His experience teaching art to students at High Tech High Chula Vista.

"I realized I was teaching kids not to listen to their inner critic, but there I was—I hadn't actually made a comic because I had been so down on myself," he says.

Yurick launched Hipster Picnic in 2010. The dubbed "zombie dramedy based in post-apocalyptic San Diego" has gone through many iterations, but its current home is as a web comic at hipster-picnic. com. Next, he'll publish it as a trade paperback.

Hipster Picnic focuses on Hawk and Steve, two dudes who also happen to be zombies. The pair faces mundane hipster quandaries juxtaposed with the more surreal issues that come with needing to eat human flesh and inhabiting dead bodies with rotting limbs that fall off without warning. Yurick keeps the blood and gore to a minimum, though, instead focusing on the relationship between the characters and using his real life as inspiration for much of the text (Hawk actually looks a lot like Yurick and Yurick's wife consistently complains that the storyline often hits a little too close to home).

San Diegans will appreciate Hipster Picnic's local setting. Early in the comic, Mission Valley, the "evil epicenter of consumerism," gets demolished. The Hillcrest Farmers Market also makes an appearance when someone from "Sue Zombie's Farm" pitches Hawk on the benefits of a zombitarian diet and an undead Dr. Seuss makes a quick cameo.

Artistically, there are nods to pop painter Roy Lichtenstein and Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson throughout Hipster Picnic's pages, but especially in recent panels Yurick's aesthetic seems much more distinctive.

"This water-color layout I've been working on feels good—it feels interesting to me, consistent and prettier," Yurick says. "I finally feel like I've found a voice and an art style in the last 20 pages—like, it's me and that's good."

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You don't need to mention my arm," Yurick says. "Seriously, you really don't have to."

In 2013, the artist purchased a Groupon for a tattoo. He agonized over what to get and ultimately settled on a simple, blank four-panel comic strip. The plan was to draw a new comic on his arm every day and document it on his website, myarmthecomic.com.

Yurick's creative tattoo project caught the attention of another blog, Noah Scalin's Make Something 365. Once posted there, the story went viral.

"I was on the radio in South Africa, they published an article about me in the Netherlands and all this stuff," Yurick says of the resulting wave of media attention that included stories in CNET Magazine and The Huffington Post. "But it just started to have this tone of the freak of the week,' and it got to be—on an artistic level—like, I don't want this to be the thing I'm known for, so I eventually just stopped doing it."

Now Yurick has a tattoo that most people assume is unfinished. His wife makes fun of him every time he has to explain the story to a stranger who asks.

"Now I'm stuck trying to get my less famous artwork and projects to be more famous than my stupid tattoo," he says with a sigh. "But I do see it as a cool token of past creativity."



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