Friday, August 1, 2014

August's Peculiar Person of the Month: Artist Jason Rondinelli

David Rondinelli

Jason showing that he is the proud
winner of the family "thin" gene.
Here at This Peculiar Life NYC, I have a special interview. In celebration of his birthday and wonderful new art series, I've decided to shine a little light on my big brother Jason Rondinelli. An accomplished art teacher at Montauk, IS 223 in Boro Park Brooklyn, Rondinelli started out in the heart of Steel City. Raised amongst the mill's smokey cumulus clouds of Clairton, PA Rondinelli found his inspiration hidden in those clouds that would soon become the basis for his first art series Smoke and Mirrors.

The series is a composite of installations that combines everything from marbled paper, collage, and still life constructs made out of actual mirrors.
 Rondinelli is also the father of a two-year old daughter, Annamia, that he co-parents with his partner of eight years.

Before becoming an accomplished artist, he was, of course, forced to co-habit a shared room with his younger brother. He was often held hostage by him with a Nerf riffle and Barbie Doll, while being forced to draw scantly clad Disney characters for his brother instead of doing his homework. Rondinelli had this to say of the experience.

"I had a charmed existence for the first two years of my life until my brother was born. Talk about disappointment. He was this very loud albino child that ran around our yard naked and had a diet of breast milk and apple juice until he was 10."

Awe...he really does owe it all to me.

Rondinelli moved to Brooklyn at 18 where he studied Art Education and Drawing at Pratt Institute which would eventually lead him to make his family very proud as August's Peculiar Person of the Month! Read all about the brilliant thought process and intricate construction that went into creating these signature art pieces.

This Peculiar Life NYC: How long did it take you to complete this series?
Jason Rondinelli: To complete the Smoke & Mirrors series took about 10 months. I spent two months experimenting with different materials and processes to determine the direction of this series. During that time, I completed one or two pieces that interested me. I created a body of work following their trajectory.

TPL NYC: How do you go about planning a series of this proportion?

"Smoke and Mirrors"
JR: All of my work begins with making marbled paper. I like to start with marbled paper because the patterns are very loose and organic. It frees me as an artist from making contrived marks. I also like the way marbled paper plays with the proportions of paint I apply. The flowing liquid determines how much one color will spread over another. Equal amounts of red and orange paint dripped on the carrageenan will be moved around to create different proportions of color. The results always surprise me. From the marbled paper, I create collages, still-life and installations. The process of making these forms is completely spontaneous. I spend hours shifting the papers around until I develop a composition I like.
I think of each form like an Eco-system; I try to make all the pieces work together in harmony. Like an actual landscape, nature always finds a way to balance itself out, and I use that as a model for how I develop the collages. Whatever parts are not useful become recycled for another piece. After making the collages, I develop paintings from them. I create cropped compositions of the collages to make a painting that’s not merely a representation of the collage but an image independent from its inspiration.

Jason making art at Montauk, IS 223

TPL NYC: How did you choose the theme for the pieces?
JR: The theme emerged organically. Lately, I have used my work as a way for me to work through life’s challenges. I’ve always felt that my thought patterns were scattered. I’ve tried, through meditation, to focus my thoughts. For several years I would meditate along the Varazanno Promenade. During the meditations, what I noticed was the way the environment re- balanced itself after Hurricane Sandy or human intervention. The water found new places to flow, the rocks re-oriented themselves and plants still took root. It caused me to reflect on my own arts making practice and I started to think about developing a process that was more organic and flexible and less pre-determined. The content of this work is about my observations of nature’s transient elements melting from solids to liquids and it has also functioned as a vehicle for me to be more fluid with my process.

TPL NYC: What are the materials you used to create the art?
JR: I have always been attracted to paper as a painting surface and as a sculptural material. Since this series is about transformation and impermanence, I like using a material that is delicate and impermanent. For the collages, I use colored charcoal paper, vellum, acrylic inks and broken mirrors. For the paintings, I use Arches’ Cold Press Paper and Windsor Newton Watercolors.
TPL NYC: What made you decide to make it into a series as opposed to just one piece?
JR: I wanted to spend some time really exploring this new process of working. After the first painting, “Smoke & Mirrors,” (the painting, not the whole series) I wanted to create images that were less representational and bordered on abstraction. So I created paintings like "Caldera" and "Currents." I also wanted to create a body of work that ranged in its level of being more final. I think a question that burns in every artist’s mind is, “when is it finished?” This is a particularly grueling question for a watercolor painter because a watercolor artist cannot use white. If you want an area of the painting to be white you have to preserve the white of the paper. If you later decide an area is too dark there’s no going back, leaving little room to edit. Although I can’t “undo” values in a painting, I can explore the level of completeness in a painting. Some paintings like "Both Sides of the River," are very finished while others like, "Morass," are less complete. I

I’m pleased with the results even though completeness is a question I will always pursue. In regards to the collages, I love making multiples because they are so much fun to make and the results are always surprising. As I mentioned before, the paintings have to be pre-planned but the collages are a complete spontaneous process. I love laying out all of papers on the studio floor, cutting them up and placing them in new configurations.

TPL NYC: You have several things going at once in the pieces. You have colorful imagery evocative of organic settings that are two dimensional, but you also have incorporated glass and 3D imagery. Why combine these two materials together?
JR: That’s a great question because the mirror does seem out of place amongst an otherwise paper construction. Texturizing paper can create the illusion of many surfaces but it can’t really replicate the reflective quality of water. In my collages, I use mirrors to create a surface indicative of a puddle of water or a crystal rock. For my paintings, the mirrored surface de-centralizes the lighting and reflects imagery in a way that further abstracts the painting. It opens up a great variety of compositional possibilities for a single painting that would be limited without the mirror.
"Quakes and Rainbows" with the mirror still life.

TPL NYC: How did you know when it was done? How did you know to stop at the number of pieces that you did?
JR: As I mentioned before, completeness is a question. I’m always asking myself. In this instance I called upon the guidance of two mentors of mine, Sara Jones and Andrea Wenglowskyj, creators of the creative agency, Kind Aesthetic. Their feedback was really encouraging, after nine months they felt my work was farther along than I did and changed my perspective on how finished a piece had to be. A month after the critique, all the work was done. Working with them has made it clear how important it is to receive feedback from other artists.
TPL NYC: Now that you completed the work, what is the next step that you will be taking to get the work out there?
JR: Since completing the series, I have been in two group shows this summer, Art Not Without___, at Amos Eno Gallery, on display June and July and Summer ARTiculated at Osilas Gallery on view from July 10 to August 10. In addition, some paintings have been printed in the July issue of Fresh Paint Magazine, and on their Studio Visit blog. I will also be attending the Vermont Studio Center in August. I plan to take this project to the next level by experimenting with larger scale paintings and installations.

"I Was So Many Things"
TPL NYC: What were some of the challenges that you faced while making the art? Was there a piece in particular that was difficult to complete?
JR: My greatest challenge when making any work of art always involves trying to over-control or over-work a piece. There was a collage I made called “Windward” that I must have assembled in a dozen different formations. Some parts of the collage I invested a great deal of time constructing but in the end the piece looked like a giant Christmas wreath. I really wanted the piece to work but it just didn’t come together. When I encounter a piece that’s not working, I have learned to disassemble it and use the scraps for another collage. Observing nature has taught me to be flexible, nature wastes nothing, matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and I find this really encouraging. Knowing this has given me permission to disassemble my work and create something new with it.
 TPL NYC: Was there one that you had an easy time creating?
JR: Yes, the collage hearth was made in one night. I constructed the center of the collage for a still life I painted in “Caldera.” I thought I wasn’t going to use it until I saw it lying next to some pink and purple marbled paper. I taped it to the wall and started shifting the papers around until I was pleased with the composition.

TPL NYC: Do you have a piece that is your favorite?
JR: I have two favorite pieces, “Caldera” and “Up Steam.” I like them for the same reason, to me they look like they are melting or evaporating before my eyes. They embody a sense of transformation I have been seeking to represent in this work.

TPL NYC: The work as a whole, what do you hope the viewer will experience while looking at it?
JR: I hope they pick up on the overarching theme, transforming elements, but I always enjoy hearing observations that are new to me. One of my friends noted the paintings appeared to combine disproportionate forms together. Another friend felt I was trying to control chaos in the paintings. I really appreciate these psychological observations because they do reflect my use of making art as a way to organize and focus my thoughts.
TPL NYC: About creating it, did you see the shapes and designs in your head and sketch them out, or did you just begin to build the pieces as you went along? How did you decide what folds, patterns, and glass should go where?
JR: There are three stages to making my work and each stage there are varied levels of control I have over the outcome.  I have the least amount of input over the pattern making process which usually involves marbling paper or creating rocky textures using cellophane.  In both these instances I determine the color choices and the general direction of a mark but the liquid or cellophane determines the overall shapes and proportion of the color applied. The second stage is making the collage. In this instance I choose where a piece of paper is going to go but I do not have a planned outcome. Finally, when I make a painting I have total control over every step of the process. I make several preliminary drawings and determine the final color and composition of the painting before I start painting it.
Jason shares birthday cake with his family
TPL NYC: Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you are pursuing?
JR: I have a two year old daughter and she is my greatest interest. I am constantly juggling family, work and my studio practice.

TPL NYC: What are your plans for the future? Is there a new project that you would like to create?
JR: Yes. The plan for the future is to make larger installations. I recently used my classroom to create five and half foot pieces of marbled paper. I’m used to making papers no larger than 24” so this was a big leap in scale. My plan is to create a watery like environment with the paper that people can experience on an immersing level.

TPL NYC: So this is about peculiar people and things, what is the most peculiar piece of art that you have seen? 
JR: I don’t know if I can recall the most peculiar piece of art I have ever seen, but there is an artist, Stephanie Patton, I’m looking at now that’s very original. She’s a multimedia artist based in Louisiana and she addresses issues of mental and physical health in her work. She also uses a great deal of humor. She has an amazing video called Conquer, where she removes band aids that cover her face and neck in a braid like pattern. The compulsive process of removing so many band-aids causes me to reflect on how healing often occurs after a great deal of work and momentary pain. The art making process can be like that more for me, full of lots of little painful steps. Check it out here:
TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have encountered while living in NYC?
JR: In 2010 my little brother went on a date. He’s a handsome eligible bachelor that for some weird reason doesn’t date that often. If you’re a decent guy message him for a date and lets make 2014 even stranger.

 Readers can see and follow updates of  Jason's work at and

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July's Peculiar Person of the Month: J-Pop Singer Reni Mimura

David Rondinelli  
J-Pop singer, dancer, and cosplayer Reni Mimura brings a unique blend of Japanese culture to New York City. Mimura showcases her talents in her monthly maid show named Moe Moe Honey. The show is performed in Chinatown's own Maid Cafe' located on Centre Street in Manhattan. Girls of varying ages perform in an array of colorful outfits that come complete with an arsenal of accessories and colorful frocks. It serves to create an inclusive environment for many in the cosplay community and anime fans alike.

Mimura, a hit in her native Japan, released an album after she auditioned for Takahiro Yamautsuri who was one of the producers for the Pokemon movies.

Since she came to America six years ago, Mimura has released two albums; her newest one is titles Hybrid Girl. The album showcases her sweet and cute side, while also allowing her to express a more mature side of her personality. Mimura commented on how she is trying to blend her Japansese aesthetic with American tastes in fashion and music.

She has done a great job fitting in with the unique landscape that New York City has to offer artists of various types from all walks of life. The sensuous and cute mixed into Mimura's versatile performances help to mainstream the cosplay and J-Pop scene, which is why Reni Mimura is July's Peculiar Person of the month. 

This Peculiar Life: You just finished a new album called Hybrid Girl. Is there a theme or message that you want listeners to know while listening to the album?

Reni Mimura: Thank you for asking me about it! I have my message in this album, that we can have fun forever in our life. No worries to care about [whether it be] age, gender [or what country we come from.] We should be easy going towards our dream, love and just continue to aim to what you want. I want people feel easy going in their lives.

Reni in black
TPL NYC: You filmed a music video for the single "Secret". What was the experience like making a music video? Do you come up with the concept or does the director? Did you have fun making it?

RM: Basically, I'm a dancer. I always wanted [to do a] dance video of my music. I never had done a dance music video before. Finally, I got music from an American music producer [named] Fluu, who did some remixes for Britney Spears, on this album. Also, I had my video director Jonnelle, who I've known since performing at New York Anime Fest in 2009, agreed to shoot the dance video this time. He didn't have a script, but was inspired to shoot my movements.

[I did a] costume change into White Reni and Black Reni. [Transformations are my style, and it really made me satisfied with the shoot.]

TPL NYC: Your look in the video is very different than your maid café' look. This looks more adult and mature? What made you decide on the change? Will you adopt this look from now on, or will you keep the cute maid look too?

RM: [That is the deep connection] with fashion between Japan and America. American cute has a taste of rock. Japanese cute is [a more] smoky color and frill. Even if it's not A-girl (Akiba Girl) still Kawaii is smoky baby pink. Black is not a cute color in Japan, but in America the color of Black is still cute as well.


Reni in dark colors
I've been in New York six years now, and I love fashion. I'm still learning how make my own style. I would say I'm a mix between cute and Kawaii. I update my picture everyday on my social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and my Japanese blog. [I'll have a new photo shoot coming soon! People can take a look at my mix of American fashion and Japanese Moe style. My style is Innocent Sexy!]

Reni capturing the cute and serious looks that she emulates

TPL NYC: How long did it take you to put this new album together? Did you write all the lyrics and music to it?

RM: The song "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is produced by Ki-Yo (a successful Japanese artist from the 90's) and composed for me some music loops. It inspired me to make a rhyme that is around 20 lines long. Then Moe Maid Girls (who work in my monthly Maid Show) helped me to organize those lines to do a rap.

[The song, "Hello Sunshine" was also produced by Ki-Yo's and had the same process] through it. It was Ki-Yo's imagined song of Reni.

I completely wrote the lyrics and melody to the song "Suspect A."  It was composed by Japanese music producer Rui. We worked together by using Skype. He then came to New York to go to my American producer, Fluu, to do a mix of that song again.

"Lovely NY" and "Judgmental Dramatic Monday" [are two songs that I wrote the lyrics to, but the melody was by Rui. Our process for these songs is the same as for my "Suspect A" song.]

[It took about a year to make this album, which is a bit long mostly because we had to connect so many producers for each song between Japan and America.]

TPL NYC: Is there a track that you like the most? What style do you enjoy singing in the most?

RM: "Rock, Paper, Scissors" [is my favorite track! I like lyrics that show my personality a lot and who I am, and I also like the Hip Hop style of Nyan Nyan.]
TPL NYC: What were some the challenges you had in putting the new songs together?

RM: Yes, my point was to create a sense of sexy between Japanese and Americans. I didn't want to be [only] "American sexy." Same as didn't want to be [only] "Japanese sexy." Also, I still wanted to stay in the anime style. It was hard to put all my images together.

TPL NYC: According to your website, you are doing some rapping on the new album. Was that hard to do, or did you find it easy?

RM: It wasn't easy. I was carrying a paper with the lyrics all the time. Listenning to the song and practicing anywhere I could. Also, rapping needs [my voice to go up and down.] It [reminded me of] acting school when I was in Japan.

TPL NYC: You recently had a documentary done about your debut here in America. How was it filming a documentary for American audiences?

RM: One of my documentaries wasn't in English, but many American people watched it and sent me messages. Most of [them asked] why I was crying? People were worried about me. They are always so sweet to me.

[The second documentary filmed the artist side of my life.] My activity inspired a lot of girls. They said it inspired them to do what they like. [We only live once;] we need to do what we like in our life.

TPL NYC: What are some of the differences between the Japanese music industry and the American music industry?

RM: American people prefer the real, true voice of the singer. They enjoy [learning] about the artist's personality and who you are. The Japanese side prefers staying in the fantasy world of the artist. [In my country, the Japanese don't prefer to get gossip. Americans love gossip about any artist.]

You can see the same thing happening in the music. Japanese music has beautiful melodies, lyrics and voices. Record companies are not selling music that has bad words in the lyrics. Even if that artist's personal life is a bad world.


TPL NYC: Do your fans in Japan miss you? Do you get to go home to Japan a lot to perform for them?

RM: Yes, they are so sweet. They are coming to my Facebook page. Facebook isn't really a famous social network in Japan. [A site called] Mixi is the biggest in Japan. But they try to use English, but some use Japanese to support me. When I get chance to go to Japan, I would love to perform for them ^_−

TPL NYC: You're maid café' show Moe Moe Honey is a one-of-a kind here in NYC. How is it being a maid here in New York City?

RM: It has been 6 years doing my maid show. I started it alone. Now, I have maid friends with strong connections. They are my jewels. Sometimes we cry together, laugh together, and eat together. [The girl that's been with me the longest is Erica Cotte. She is a leader of the maids at the maid show Maid Cafe #MoeMoeHoney. We are not just wearing maid costumes together. She knows me, I know her, and when we do a show together, it [is truly amazing!]

TPL NYC: How do you go about picking the right girls to become maids?

RM: Actually, I don't pick the new girls. The leader, Erica Cotte, and another maid do auditions and they [choose.] [We need someone who can communicate well with senior maids or it will not work.] I respect my maids who have worked with me longer, because they are already trained. Some feel that the ideal maids are the ones that don't change. They get the choice to either get a boyfriend or stay single, but most of the girls do change when they get a boyfriend. Idol producer Yasushi Akimoto made the rule of "No Boyfriends"in AKB48 from this reason. He knows girls very well. We don't have rules like that, because I totally agree with the opinion that love is most important. My opinion is that if you have something you like, I don't want them to forget that passion for it.

Reni in her maid outfit for her regular shows
TPL NYC: Do you perform anywhere else aside from the Moe Moe Honey and online? Do you have any upcoming appearances anywhere else?

RM: Yes, I'm planning to go to Texas for some anime conventions this year. I performed at many conventions between 2009-2012. Maid Cafe' NY opened and made me very busy in 2013. I hope 2014 can make me perform other places to meet many angels!

TPL NYC:  What are some upcoming projects that you are working on to give readers a sneak peek into?

RM: [I will have new music with my own lyrics and melodies. Many have asked and this is the first time I will responsed with new music in America. I will do all love songs!] Why? Because I never wrote love songs. Maybe cute ones like in Hello Kitty. Maybe sexy ones like Japanese geisha, maybe rock songs or contemporary dance...Reni still has other sides you haven't seen!

TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen while living in New York City?

RM: When police officers are patrolling at night time, they are sooooo friendly and fun. Sometimes they give phone numbers to the girls. If it was Japan, they would be fired. Japanese police officers don't smile at all. At the same time, what I like about American people is their friendly personalities.

TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen or been a part of while in Japan?

RM: The train! We have big crowds in the morning rush hour. We are very sensitive to touching other people. Yes, we don't have a hug and kiss culture, BUT only at this time we don't care about touching people whoever they are. It is because we really care about TIME. We don't want to be late at any time! That's such a Japanese thing. We call this big crowd "Sushi Zume," it means we are like a sushi pack!! When you eat sushi, look at the white rice. I'm not kidding; the packed train looks just like that.



To learn more about Reni's Maid Show and music just check out her website

Friday, May 23, 2014

June's Peculiar Person of the Month: Creator Rich Bernatovech

David Rondinelli

Rich Bernatovech
Rich Bernatovech is a man of many things. Actor, writer, creator, and artist. His latest project, Neverminds, follows an organization of super empowered women who fight threats across the globe. As the founder of his own comic book line Drum Fish Productions, Bernatovech has built a substantial fan base by offering stories that are unique to readers and cover all types of genres.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Bernatovech made New York City his home for many years after he graduated from the Actor's Studio for his MFA. He shares his time with his artist Jamie Fay and colorist Danielle Alexis St. Pierre as well his Comfort Retriever. 

He has worked in various plays, television programs, music videos, print and films, but now holds steady employment for the New York Times

He commented on how the events of 9/11 brought a change to his life and brought him back to his first love of comics.

This led him to found Drum Fish Productions, which features several comic book titles that are written and created by Bernatovich and his talented team of fellow artists. 

Bernatovich sat down with This Peculiar Life NYC to tell us how he got started, what his creative process is like, and some of the upcoming projects that he has in the works. Read more as Rich Bernatovech is June's Peculiar Person of the Month.  

This Peculiar Life NYC: What got you into comics?

Rich Bernatovech: For me, it was about the art. I got into comics until I was about 12, and the sequential art and storytelling pulled me in. George Perez drew two of the first comics I read. the art told the story before I even read a word of dialogue. I love that about it. Once I actually read the story, I was hooked.

TPL NYC: Who are some of the characters that inspired you the most?

RB: I'm a big fan of the underdog. The character that people write off and don't think is good enough. Characters who strive for something also inspire me. I'm not a big fan of slow moving stories or characters that don't change.

TPL NYC: What do you feel independent comics offer readers more than mainstream?

RB: For me, it's very clear that independent comics offer more diversity in characters and genre. They also give creators freedom to have their characters grow and evolve. I often find independent comics to have more passion in them because the creators are more connected to their own creations that they are to company owned characters. I feel they tell ore engaging stories that readers can enjoy.

TPL NYC: Tell me about your book Neverminds? How did the concept come about?

RB: I wanted to create something different and that wasn't superhero at all. I began working with artist Jamie Fay, and we came up with an interesting story of a girl torn between two worlds. It was a fantasy story, and we were excited. As we were working on the book, we discovered that there was another book coming out that was very similar to what we were doing. After a log time considering what to do, we re-evaluated Neverminds and decided to do something different. One of Jamie's strengths as an artist is the way he draws women. I played upon those strengths by adding new characters and changing the setting of our main group. To make it different, we kept some of the other worldly elements that we had from the earlier version.

A cover from Neverminds

TPL NYC: As a writer, how do you go about plotting the story? Give readers some insight into breaking down the process? What are the best parts, and what are the challenges?

RB: Plotting varies for me depending on the format I'm writing for, but I always need to know the beginning and end of the story before I start. I need to have my main characters fleshed out. Once I know where I'm starting, going, and who I'm writing about, I find it pretty easy to drive in. I daydream a lot before I start and develop elements of the story as I create characters and ideas. Then, once I think everything is good, I sit down and start typing out the story and go from there focusing on the dialogue. Honestly, I enjoy all of those aspects of writing, but I think the best part is when you're able to sole a problem that you encounter and have it work into the story perfectly. It feels like completing a puzzle. 

Original artwork
by Rich Bernatovech
Original artwork
by Rich Bernatovech
TPL NYC: As an artist, tell us the process you take to bring a page together? What the best parts and the challenges? 

 RB: As an artist, my favorite part is creating characters and getting a visual that feels right for the character. I also love changing looks and facial features from character to character. 

TPL NYC: You also have a toy line. How did this come about? Is there a figure that you feel turned out the best? 

RB: The figurines came after a toy company saw our designs and contacted us. I looked at their work and after discussing possibilities with them, we decided to work together. We have a total of seven figurines. They have been selling well and we are proud of them. I couldn't pick a favorite as I think they are sculpted beautifully and I love them all. 

Figures for Neverminds

More figures from the Neverminds toy line
TPL NYC: There is a great component to the creative side, but what the business side? Being an independent creator, how do you get your books in people's hands? 

RB: That is by far the hardest part about being an independent creator... getting the word out about your book. It's taken me a very long time to build up an audience. You have to be willing to do the work and get out there and promote yourself. It's very important for you to write reviewers, contact comic stores, interact with readers and get to know people who purchase your work at comic conventions. The only way you're going to get your book into reader's hands if for you to make them want to read it. So, plan on spending hours of time promoting, marketing and networking.

TPL NYC: Do you feel that the market is becoming friendlier towards independent creators?

RB: The marketing changes I've seen recently, in regards to independent creators, is that more reviewers are now willing to look at independent comics and promote them. It's easier to send them copies digitally and get a quick response. Comixology recently opened its doors for submission from independent comics and has been spotlighting many of the independent comics they accepted on their site.

TPL NYC: As one part of a collaboration for Neverminds, how much freedom does the other have over the project?
RB: I can't speak for everyone, but with all the collaborators I've worked with, I've felt extremely fortunate to have gotten along so well with all of them. I think it's important to like and respect the people you work with. Then you take their feedback and criticism better and aren''t so sensitive about part of your work.

TPL NYC: For new people wishing to collaborate with each other, what are some healthy ways that people can collaborate the make a successful partnership?

RB: I think you need to agree on certain ground rules before you begin. What is the goal of your collaboration? What is the time frame planned to complete your work? What's your agreement for compensation? What is your ownership deal? Once you get all that worked out, then it becomes about respect and putting the work in. Respect your partner's opinion if they give feedback on something. Respect their time and dedication. Also, don't forget to respect yourself and the time you put into a project. If you feel things are getting off track or your partner is not putting the work into the project as needed, then perhaps you need to rethink the collaboration and move on. Starting over is not the end of the world and your project will benefit from not forcing a collaboration that isn't working out.

Bernatovick with artist Jamie Fay

TPL NYC: With emerging technology, how do you feel this will change the comic market for independent creators?
RB: Good question! Right now everything is changing for independent creators. Technology has made it much easier to get your work seen by people all over the world. Sites lie Comixology are a great way to reach people expand your readership. Having digital copies of your comic is no longer an option, it's a necessity! About half of the fans I've met at conventions lately are people who know me or my work through the Internet before they even came to the show. They now seek me out at conventions whereas before they discovered my work at the con. It's amazing how quickly independent creators can build a global audience through Facebook, Comixology, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

TPL NYC: Tell me a bit about the color palette for Neverminds? It is very vibrant, how did you choose them?
RB: The color palette for Neverminds was chosen by the artist Jamie Fay. Jamie really has a great eye for color and he is working hard to make each character individual. He uses color to help achieve this and works closely with Neverminds colorist, Danielle Alexis St. Pierre. Danielle is crazy talented and adds to the vibrancy of the colors within the book. Between the two of them, they have created a unique look for the book.

Latest copy of Neverminds

TPL NYC: Same thing with the character designs, how long does it take you to find the right look for the characters?
RB: With my series Sentinels, I had much more input on the design of the characters than I did on Neverminds. For Sentinels, I came up with all the initial looks and then Luciano Vecchio used them as a base to evolve and expand the characters into more contemporary looks. With Neverminds, Jamie came up with all the looks of the characters and then I developed each character from that. I'd say in both cases through, that we made changes to the characters designs throughout the creative process until we got them the "feel" right.
TPL NYC: Is there a character that you enjoy writing or drawing the most?
RB: I lover writing characters that are confident, yet flawed. Even the strongest and most indestructible character needs a reality to ground them and make them relatable. Without any kind of a flaw, they become boring and too perfect. As far as drawing, I love drawing very expressive people.
TPL NYC: Is there a character that you find to be challenging to write or draw?
RB: For writing...villains! I believe that you have to know exactly who your villain is and what motivates them. Without that, you won't be able to sell them to your audience as a big threat or a worthy adversary. It's fund to write characters who are out there and you can get wild with. As for characters I find challenging to draw, I guess I'd have to say older characters. I've been told I draw very young looking and I'm trying to work on that. I want to be more diverse in my character designs.

The characters of Neverminds

TPL NYC: How has Neverminds been received by the public?
RB: So far, we've gotten a great response from Neverminds. Most people seem to get what we're trying to do and understand that we're building towards something. There have been a few people who have rushed to judgment based on only part of our story, which I can't do anything about. The artwork by Jamie Fay has been getting rave reviews and it's amazing to see his work develop and grow. The same can be said for the coloring on the book by Danielle Alexis St. Pierre. Jamie and Danielle make an amazing team. That's what brings people to Neverminds first. However, readers have also responded that once they read the books, they really enjoy how hard we've worked hard to create a unique set of characters who are all strong female types. My hopes are that by the end of the first arc, we've given readers a reason to care about the characters and that they want to see more.

 TPL NYC: Why comics as opposed to other forms of artistic mediums?  
RB: I love comics. I find the visual medium of storytelling in comics form fits perfectly with my ideas and abilities. It's just a way of creating that feels right to me.
TPL NYC: Outside of comics, what do you like to do? Any other artistic endeavors or hobbies?

RB: I used to be an actor and graduated from the Actor's Studio in NYC. I also used to paint a lot with acrylics and watercolors. My artistic endeavors have focused mainly on comics for a while now. Who knows, someday. I might go back to both of those forms of expression.
Bernatovech with his book Bugged
TPL NYC: What are some of your upcoming projects?

RB: I just recently released the original graphic novel Bugged, which is a very dark and humorous book about a teenager and a talking roach. It's been getting great reviews and I'm extremely happy with the response that we've gotten on it.  
We hope to finish the first storyline of Neverminds in a few issues and we are almost finished with a second Sentinels anthology, which will reunite me with Sentinels artist, Luciano Vecchio. This is in celebration of our 10th anniversary and release of the revised and colorized version of Sentinels on Comixology.
I also have a web comic that is still being developed that I will actually be the artist for, as someone else will be writing. I have two other original graphic novels that I'm writing and have amazing artists that I'll be working with.  

TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen while at a con?
RB: Hmmm, that's a tough one. When I first started, I probably would have had a bunch of answers for you for this. I do find the "free hugs" signs on people a little disturbing through. Ha.
TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have seen while in NYC?
RB: Oh, I think you'd want to keep this PG rated and all my answers would be a bit adult, ha, ha. I will say though that all the things I've seen (that have been peculiar to me) have all been things that I see early in the morning, at like 5:00 a.m. when I'm walking my dog. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that happens right before the sun comes up.

A splash page from Neverminds

To find out more about Rich Bernatovech and his projects, check out his website at


Monday, March 24, 2014

April's Peculiar Person of the Month: Lolita and Playwright Charles Battersby

David Rondinelli
(Chartles Battersby in costume)
I had the opportunity to cover an article at the Japan Society on the Lolita community that congregates in New York City, a community that can only be described as...thriving. You may be wondering what I mean by Lolita, but I assure that it is an all ages and most important, legal, event that caters to a subculture of people known for wearing Victorian dresses and garments. At the center, I was surrounded by an array of colorfully dressed girls in cotton candy wigs, covered head to toe in Bo Peep fashion and lace. While brushing elbows and petticoats, I had the chance to meet playwright and Lolita Charles Battersby.

Battersby lives with his wife and two cats in Williamsburg and has been doing so for twelve years. As a professional writer, he has covered a host of genres such as playwriting, theatre criticism, and video game journalism. If the phrase- “do what you love and the money will follow”- means anything, it has certainly proved true for Battersby. He spoke about how lucky he feels to be able to combine his hobbies as his full time profession. A graduate from the New School for Social Research he achieved a degree in drama, which can be seen in his costume choice and personas that he has created.
Battersby is currently working on several new plays each with fun concepts on romance and humor. Range seems to be a word that best describes Battersby as I met not only the man, but the Lolita. Read more below as Battersby opens up about being a male Lolita, what the community is like, and what all goes into crafting a look to be a Lolita. Read on as Charles Battersby is April’s Peculiar Person of the Month.

This Peculiar Life NYC: How did you first hear about the Lolita community?

Charles Battersby: I learned about it as an extension of goth culture. I think the old term was "Elegant Gothic Lolita."  I used to work in a costume store in the 90's and we had a huge gang of goths that hung around the store so we were immersed in the Goth/ Lolita / Victorian communities.

TPL NYC: What do you feel the Lolita community offers you that other communities don’t?

CB: A lot of fashion subcultures are centered around noisy nightclubs or crowded conventions, but Lolita has a quiet and polite nature to it, usually based around tea parties, picnics and fashion shows. Lolitas are also whimsical and playful, it's a break from the constant attitude of "I'm a very serious adult doing terribly serious grown-up things."
TPL NYC: What do you feel makes the Lolita community different than other forms of costumes play?

CB: Lolita isn't necessarily a costume, and that's what separates it from cosplay.  Some "Lifestyle Lolitas" dress in Lolita clothing every day. Other people might just wear a single item as an accessory to an otherwise ordinary outfit.  It isn't necessarily about wearing a costume and role playing.
TPL NYC: How active is this community in New York City?

There are smaller meet ups almost every week, and a larger gathering about once a month. Lolitas can also be found at any major Anime/ Cosplay/ Manga event.  Recently most Japanese cultural events like Japan Day in Central Park, or Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn will have Lolitas and other forms of "Street Fashion" present.
TPL NYC: Take me through what it is like being in the Lolita world? Where do you guys meet and what do you talk about? What are tea parties like?

CB: The tea parties can range from just a handful of friends getting together for lunch, up to mini-conventions with over a hundred people. New York has quite a few restaurants that specialize in tea parties. 

TPL NYC: How do you go about putting a costume together? What catches your eye when you see an outfit?

CB: As an actor / cosplayer I have a wardrobe packed with outfits accumulated over decades. I tend to buy pieces individually then put them together when an event approaches.  With Lolita it's not hard to make an outfit since almost everything is pink, white or black.

As a relatively older Lolita I try to be as elegant and streamlined as possible to avoid looking like I'm wearing a costume. The "Sweet Lolita" style of being covered in pink ruffles and glitter from head-to-toe is better suited to younger people.

TPL NYC: Is it hard finding the clothes for your body since you are a guy?

CB: Yes. Most Lolitas are young women, and the most popular brands are from Japan, so the clothing is tiny. Almost everything I wear is either custom-made, or extensively modified by me for the right fit. I'm small when compared to the typical American man, and I wear corsets that bring my waist down to about 22 inches, but I still have a hard time finding dresses and blouses that fit my shoulders. 

Are there many men that participate in the Lolita fashion?

CB: Not many, but there are a few. They usually dress in period men's outfits when they join their female friends at Lolita gatherings.

(Defying convenstion even amonsgt the unconventional)

TPL NYC: You seem to play with the gender roles in this community, which is interesting. Do the women ever wear masculine fashion in the community?

CB: There's a subculture called "Brolita" and there are usually a couple of boy wearing Lolita clothes at any large Lolita gathering. It's also very common to see girls dressed in clothing that would have been intended for men in the 19th Century. The men's styles back then were very feminine by today's standards.

TPL NYC: What do you like most about the Lolita community, and what is the most fun part?

CB: The food!  Any Lolita gathering is awash with cookies and cupcakes!

Have you faced any challenges by being a part of the community? Is there any discrimination from inside or outside this community?

CB: Inside the community, no.  The people I meet at Lolita events are usually happy to meet another person who shares their interests. I've never had the sense that I'm unwelcome.

From outside the community it's a different story. Looking different will always draw attention, and some of that attention will be hostile.  

What does your family and friends think of you being a Lolita?

CB: Most of my friends are actors, cosplayers, or creative types so they're fine with me throwing on a victorian ballgown every now and then.  They're accustomed to seeing me dressed in all sorts of outfits when I'm acting in a show or cosplaying, so Lolita is just part for the course. 

(The famous Lolita Captain America)
TPL NYC: Aside from this community, are there any other types of costume play communities that you are a part of (i.e. cosplay, drag, maid costumes, things like that.)

CB: I've been cosplaying since before we had the term cosplay, and a few of my costumes have had Lolita influences.  I'm well-known for my "Lolita Captain America" costume which was one of the stock images used by news agencies to cover the New York Comic Con. 
I was also rather infamous in the mid 90's because I was thrown out of a major convention by DC Comics because of my Catwoman costume. Times have changed…
TPL NYC: What other hobbies or interests do you have outside Lolita? I know you are a theatre critic, do you act as well?

CB: I act, I write plays, I direct and produce (Sometimes all at once, Ed Wood style!) In the past I performed in lots of Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows, and did bit parts in movies and TV shows, but the last few years I prefer to perform in projects that I write and produce myself. I'll usually write in a role that I intend to play.
I also spend countless hours playing video games and writing about them.  I view video games as a narrative art form, and when I review one I analyze it with the same degree of respect that I would have when reviewing a play.

I'm currently writing the "Fallout Lore" webseries for, and I have a play reading at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston in April. The play is a romantic comedy about a married couple trapped in a bomb shelter built for one. It's called "That Cute Radioactive Couple".

I'm also planning a production of a new play called "The Astonishing Adventures of All-American Girl & The Scarlet Skunk" for later this year.

(Defeating the Red Skull)
TPL NYC: What is the most peculiar thing you have experienced in the Lolita community?
CB: I've been in a room with dozens of girls doing the CaramellDansen.

(Which you can see below.)


What is the most peculiar thing you have ever been a part of or seen?
CB: Eating at the McDonald's next to the convention center where they hold Comic Con. Nothing is more surreal than having dinner with the Justice League, the Sailor Scouts and the Avengers.

(A dapper Charles as himself)