If you stop by Happy Harbor Comics on a Friday or Saturday afternoon between now and August, you might just find Andrew Leung working on his own comic creation.
He’s the comic shop’s new artist-in-residence, a service run by Happy Harbor to benefit artists and the public by providing space for artists to get some exposure and community interaction going. In Leung’s case, he’s aiming to finish a 24-page comic in the next week or so.
“The comic is a sort of high fantasy, Leung says. “It takes place in a world where magic rivals science. There are demigods that walk the Earth, and as a result these societies have sprung up around these individuals. Religion and state are fairly intermixed and intertwined and different cultures and practices arise around these demigods.
“It’s about a young elfish orphan who finds herself wandering into one of these cities,” he continues. “And it’s about her struggles dealing with individuals and strange new customs as well as just trying to find a place where she can belong in this society.”
Titled Fate by Fortune and planned to be presented as a webcomic, this was detailed as a goal to pursue in Leung’s application. The artist-in-residence is free to work on other projects, including commissions, but Leung’s got more Fate by Fortune planned beyond these first 24 pages.
“For the rest of my time, I’ll be working on either material relating to that—concept art, characters, environments, locations in that world—or working on subsequent comic chapters.”
The artist-in-residence program’s been running for several years now, with artists chosen by an independent panel and not the store itself, and for reasons broader than the art itself.
“Happy Harbor is not involved in the selection process at all,” owner Jay Bardyla says. “The qualifications for the position go beyond one’s artistic ability. Their proposed goals to achieve with the position show focus. Their volunteer work shows character. Their samples show dedication. And none are reflective of ‘quality of art.’ It’s as much about intent and purpose than skill.
“We started it because we would often hear artists mention how they had a full-time and a part-time job and struggled to make time to work on their art,” Bardyla continues. “This program gives artists dedicated time to work on their craft and earn some money at the same time.”
The program puts $100 per week into the artists’ pockets—and despite how the public setting might seem to be distracting, Leung says he finds the environment much less so than if he were just working alone. On top of that, he’s happy about the public interaction aspect of the program.
“While I’m working here, people are always free to come up and talk and see what I’m working on,” he says. “If they have pieces to show me, I can also provide feedback for them.”
A few weeks into his 32-week term, Leung has plenty of time left to work on Fate by Fortune, or anything else he likes, and anyone else has plenty of time to drop by, talk about his projects, watch him work and get advice about their own work.
“It’s been really rewarding so far. On top of just interacting with the public, which you normally wouldn’t get if I was just working in a studio somewhere, it gives me time to focus and get work done.” V