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Gallery Space: Uko Smith

Uko Smith has had a passion for comics since his days growing up in Baltimore, hanging around at Geppi’s Comics. The Columbus transplant has come to the right place, though. The capital city is home to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, as well as hot comics spots like Laughing Ogre, Packrat Comics, Comic Town, and [...]
614now Staff

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Uko Smith has had a passion for comics since his days growing up in Baltimore, hanging around at Geppi’s Comics. The Columbus transplant has come to the right place, though. The capital city is home to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, as well as hot comics spots like Laughing Ogre, Packrat Comics, Comic Town, and Heroes and Games. We also host a mean con. Comic conventions are no longer merely the territory of nerds. Well, they are definitely the territory of nerds. But that term has been reclaimed and monetized. Gatherings like Mid-Ohio Con are teeming with opportunities for artists to meet publishers, and show off their latest artwork. (614) caught up with the CCAD instructor and jack-of-all comic trades to get a glimpse of his latest work, and hear his musings on the galaxy of comics, and his place in it.

I got my first start in comics when I stopped walking around with my portfolio at conventions trying to get work, and decided to start purchasing my own table at Chicago Comic-Con and Motor City ComicCon in Detroit. I did not know at that time that editors and art directors would be walking around looking for artists. I was initially just looking to sell my own work to the visiting crowds.

I believe that it is better to develop your own style… Because over the course of your art career, you don’t want to hear that your art “looks like someone else’s.” …I do believe that being versatile in what you do is a way to stay fresh as well. I can go from doing a really serious rendered illustration to something [whimsical] and [flirting with] erotic art. Having that versatility has served me well from doing illustrative work to concept art with various companies.

Currently I am working on a few different things from cover art with publishers, to having a solo art show, to my creator-owned project, 1500. This project is such a passion for all things that I love illustrating. I love drawing women and just female characters, period. So, I have 3 main characters, all female, who are fashion models but double as assassins. It’s incorporating a lot of the things I love doing such as action scenes, high fashion, weapons, vehicles, and concept art. It was borne out of doing specific concept art I wanted to see in a book. I’m currently working on the first issue, as I have a good six issues planned on the first installment and [I’m] looking to do a Kickstarter for the first issue or until I find the right publisher for it. Spring 2019 is the planned print date.

At the early stage when I was looking for work as an artist, [I] was just going to the big conventions. Then, as my thinking and art evolved, it was a combination of doing good art, being able to tell a story, and being able to create my own branding. Once I started investing into myself and creating my own content is when I started to see how people were taking notice of what I was doing. Today, it’s a lot of social media and constantly posting new works to show people that you are producing and creating really good content. Also, knowing the value of your work.

That is a price. Also, just know what it is you want to do, whether it’s as a penciller, inker, colorist, letter, cover artist, or maybe you just want to do it all. [Comics are] a medium that has always tried to get noticed by the local community. It was a combination of things, but probably because of the Marvel films that folks started to take notice. I know CCAD started to take notice. Since I began teaching, students were always interested in comics and sequential storytelling. My classes were nearly full every semester. And now, CCAD has a Comics and Narrative Practice Major. Comics is an outlet for any individual, either as a creator or reader.

There was a time when I and a group of close friends started Quest Studios in downtown Columbus. It was such a great experience being with like-minded people all for a common purpose in creating great art and stories. The lot of us from my Quest Studio days eventually parted and moved to the left and right coast because that was where the work was. I’ve seen it grow year by year, and it is good to see that comics is being known as a viable medium again. But, like with anything in this town, it needs support. 

For more, follow @ukosmith or visit ukosmith.com

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Arts & Culture

Two of the 13 “Greatest Places in America” are in Central Ohio

Mike Thomas

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Throughout Central Ohio, efforts to uplift communities have been ongoing for decades. Now, some of these efforts are garnering attention on the national stage.

According to a report from Columbus Business First, The Short North Arts District and Delaware's historic downtown were named among 13 “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association, a national organization of urban planners.

The APA's picks highlight locales representing “the gold standard for a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future.”

In its rundown of the Short North Arts District, the APA points to the neighborhood's status as "a pioneer in urban revitalization in Central Ohio," and goes on to call the neighborhood the "art and soul" of the City of Columbus.

As for downtown Delaware, the APA It highlighted efforts by civic and business leaders in transforming the derelict city center into a thriving neighborhood full of attractive amenities for locals and visitors to enjoy.

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Arts & Culture

Nina West makes TV History with Emmys appearance

Mike Thomas

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Hometown hero Nina West is having a big year. Following her "Miss Congeniality" win in season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race, West has released of a children’s music album, Drag Is Magic, and a comedy EP, titled John Goodman.

Now, the Columbus drag icon can add a moment of television history to her impressive list of accomplishments.

According to Deadline.com, West is the first person in Emmys history to walk the purple carpet in full drag.

Season 11 of Drag Race, which airs on VH-1 and has been renewed for a 12th season, took home 4 Emmy wins, including the trophy for "Outstanding Reality Show." The long running competition was nominated for 14 awards in all—the most of any VH-1 show in history.

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Arts & Culture

How Bazaar: Popup arts fest shines a light on local creatives

Mike Thomas

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While cultivating a newfound sense of personal fulfillment might be as simple as picking up a paint brush or instrument, earning a living through your art is a more complicated prospect. As longtime friends, collaborators, and Columbus art-scene hustlers Dustin Bennett and Zak Biggard will tell you, making it as an artist sometimes comes down to who you know.

Having met years ago as coworkers at a local printmaking shop, Bennett and Biggard have gone on to individual success with their own creative design firms. For Bennett, part of this work entails curating the art displayed at Clintonville’s Global Gallery, a cafe and art space that is committed to promoting fair trade handcrafted products from around the world.

When an exhibition Bennett was planning for the space fell through, he reached out to Biggard to fill the vacancy with his work. The resulting show was a hit, with Biggard selling several pieces in one of Global Gallery’s most successful exhibitions to date.

Biggard and Bennett outside of Global Gallery (Photo: Brian Kaiser)

His reputation with the venue established, Biggard approached Amy Palmer, Global Gallery’s manager, with an idea for a large-scale show. She gave him the thumbs up, and Biggard again partnered with Bennett to help bring his vision to light. The result is a show spanning three weekends in the month of August that the duo have dubbed Bazaar Ritual.

“The idea was a bazaar, this sort of Middle-Eastern marketplace where you walk in and it’s just a feast for the senses,” says Biggard. “All of these different sights, sounds, smells—everything packed together.”

As mutually beneficial as their collaborations had been, the Bennett and Biggard hope to open the doors of opportunity wide to other artists. Through this new exhibition/festival, the two aim to shed a light on creators who may not know how to navigate the sometimes complicated process of getting work into a conventional art show.

“Most of these people have never been involved in the gallery scene or never been able to show their work off,” Biggard explains. “They are just so excited to be a part of something, and the stuff I’ve been seeing from people, I just can't wait to have everything together in one place.”

When the exhibitors do come together for the popup-style event on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st, they will bring with them works across a diverse range of media.

“We’ve got people who make jewelry, clothing, glass blowers, painters and performance artists,” says Biggard. “It’s really the diversity of the work that’s the theme.”

As diverse as the work on display in the show will be, the exhibitors themselves hail from various disparate walks of life—everyone from nurses to dog walkers, printmakers to salespeople, as Bennett explains. In addition to the work shown during the recurring weekend events, each artist in Bazaar Ritual will have the opportunity to display one piece in Global Gallery throughout the month of August. Artists will keep 100% of the proceeds sold throughout the month and during the weekend events.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By0yi8xhuPE/

Along with providing a platform, the Bennett and Biggard hope that Bazaar Ritual will serve as a networking hub where creatives can meet and form collaborations of their own. Response from artists interested in taking part has already been building organically, with those involved telling their friends, those friends bringing more friends, and so on.

In addition to the prospect of hanging out with artists and perusing the exhibitions, the organizers of Bazaar Ritual have a number of surprises in store for attendees. Food trucks will be on hand, as well as live local music on Global Gallery’s spacious patio.

Though Bennett and Bigard are working diligently to bring this fledgling event to fruition, the two seem calm in the lead up to the show. Their artist-first approach lends a communal feel to the event, with creatives joining forces to put on an organized yet laid-back experience that shirks the corporate mold of some traditional gallery settings.

“We’re trying to do what art is meant to do and bring people together,” says Bennett. “We’re trying to bring together as many friends and strangers as we can—motleys and misfits alike.”

Global Gallery is located at 3535 N High St, in Clintonville. You can visit Bazaar Ritual there from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM on the 3rd, the 17th, and the 31st of August. For more information, check out @bazaarritual on Instagram.

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