Do you ever wonder how to meet “your people?” How do you move to a new place and find your scene? That was the challenge that faced Carlos Gabriel Ruiz when he moved to St. Louis in 2003. It was that drive to find his people that eventually helped to launch Ink & Drink Comics, a group of St. Louis artists and writers who publish semi-annual comic anthologies, and have been doing so for seven years.
I feel like we started our own scene because we couldn’t find out where the cool kids hung out. – Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, Creative Director, Ink & Drink Comics
Why “Ink & Drink”? Obviously because the group drinks when they get together, but also for more practical reasons. “The URL was available,” laughs Ruiz, “‘Drink and Draw’ was taken.”
Ruiz, along with editor-in-chief Jason Green and deputy editor Steve Higgins, manages a rotating cast of artists and writers who contribute to one or more of the Ink & Drink anthologies. The group, formed in 2008, has monthly meet-ups at Cicero’s, where any interested artist is welcome to drop in, grab a drink and learn more about what they do. Their meetings range in size from 30-50 people, with 7-8 new attendees per month. (The group took up so many tables at Cicero’s that they now have dedicated use of the venue’s performance space each month.)
Not everyone who comes to the meetings contributes to each book, there’s no requirement that anyone ever contribute—many just like the social aspect of hanging out with like-minded people. Pizza and beer flow freely, and attendees trade ideas, find new people to collaborate with, or just use the time as a welcome artistic break to the monotony or non-creative aspects of their day-to-day lives.
Artist Maggie Thurston describes the group thusly:
“…we’re like the Wu-Tang clan. We all have our own things and we do our own projects, but we also collaborate together on the Ink & Drink books.”
Many of the attendees I spoke to emphasized the importance of socializing with people who understood them. Freelance illustrator Benjamin Sawyer works primarily from home. He’s been a member of the Ink & Drink group for about eight years, and he enjoys the sense of community and the social interaction of the meetings, since working from home can be such an isolating activity.
Younger artists enjoy the feedback they can get at the meetings. Anna, one of the attendees at the February meeting, is an artist who is just beginning a career in game design and computer animation. She describes the meetups as a “great place to get feedback if you’re struggling with something.”
Publishing on such an aggressive schedule can be daunting, but editor-in-chief Jason Green thinks the group’s competitiveness keeps everyone on their game. “Carlos and I did a convention in Maryland called Small Press Expo, where I spoke on a panel with a whole bunch of other groups like ours from the east coast. None of them publish with the regularity that I do. There was an audible gasp when I said we put out a book every six months.” Green said.
“We’ve been lucky in that everybody sees the books and they see how good they are, they see how good everybody else is and they don’t want to miss out, they want to have the best story in the book. That friendly one-upsmanship is what keeps driving the success of the books I think.” – Jason Green, Editor-in-Chief
Deputy editor Steve Higgins says his involvement in the group has helped him hone his craft. “I’m a much better writer than I was six years ago,” Higgins says. “…I think just the idea of having people behind me saying ‘You’ve gotta get something in the next book.’ and having these deadlines and a new [story] every six months made me just continually keep working at it and keep upping my game.”
If you’re interested in joining Ink and Drink you can check out their Facebook group, where they discuss current projects and seek feedback. Their next meeting is at Cicero’s on Tuesday, March 21st from 8-10 p.m. “…or later,” Green adds, “Sometimes much, much later.”
You can purchase their books at their website, at Amazon, or at most local comic shops.
Check out the video below for more information on the group, and information on when their next book, Chaser, will be released.
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