In January 2008 Bob Almond began an on-line discussion on the Inkwell Yahoo Group about the overall lack of recognition and problems with respect toward inkers. During these discussions, the idea of an award was mooted to raise awareness of the craft of inking in the public eye. Bob wrote an article on the subject for his ‘Inkblots’ column in Sketch Magazine in 2007, edited by Bill Nichols.
Subsequently Almond sounded out several people and invited participants from the Inkwell Yahoo Group discussions to join in the core committee, which handle the operations and fundraising. The founding members of the Inkwell Awards were artists Tim Townsend, Jim Tournas, Bill Nichols and writer Daniel Best. Following this two ambassadors were selected, artist Adam Hughes and DC Comics editor Mike Marts, to lend support to the organization and mission. Danny and Tim Aslat acted as webhosts and set up the website and artist Dan Panosian designed the Inkwell logo.
For year one, the committee selected several career retrospective categories. The resulting ballot was open and ran for two months from April through May including the Hall of Fame award, the Joe Sinnott, named in honor of the notable and respected veteran ink artist. Voting took place online at the site and was open to the public.
Following the inaugural results, Tim Townsend departed in July and Bill Nichols in August. To replace these vacant spots in the core group, art rep Bob Shaw was selected in November and veteran artist/writer Dave Simons in December. Bob Shaw had acted as the auctioneer contributor for the organization’s fundraising in year one and continued that duty when promoted going into year two.
Developments in the fall/winter of 2008 included promotional expansion online by the committee members on social networks like Facebook (Danny), MySpace (Bob S.), and the formation of the Inkwell Awards forum (Bob S.) on September 16, 2008. A ComicArtFans Gallery account was formed in November of 2008 by Bob Shaw (later maintained by Bob Almond and Damon Owens), Twitter (Danny) and Comicspace (Bob A.) accounts were later added on November 1, 2009.
In late 2008 the committee was motivated to set into motion a new program called the COMPliments Program. Joe Sinnott used to receive HC comps of his collected work from a publisher for years but suddenly he noticed he was missing a few and called up an editor to inquire. He was told “…inkers no longer get comp copies of the books. Only writers and pencilers. The inkers aren’t as important to the book as the writer and penciler”, they said. The Inkwell Awards began supplying Joe with free HC comps from then on, thanks to the generosity of supportive retailers, originally Larry Harrison of Harrison’s Comics & Toys and Ernest Pelletier of Friendly Neighborhood Comics. The committee later decided to extend the program, within reason, to subsequent Hall of Fame recipients, with the organization purchasing the books at the heavily discounted wholesale cost. Larry and Ernie supplied the requested volumes for the first two years, with other retailers brought into the mix later to help spread out the effort and donated items (Nate Machado of New England Comics and Jay and Steve Pillarella of Rubber Chicken Comics).
For the sophomore year changes were made after feedback was reviewed in relation to the 2008 awards. As such a separate and annually rotating Nomination Committee was selected to choose nominees whose work had appeared in the previous year for the partially revised ballot categories. Once the nominations were selected the committee made sure that the artists selected were eligible for awards. The election itself took place for one month in June 2009. During that period, member Dave Simons passed away after a long illness. A special charity, fully supported by Dave’s sister Bette, was subsequently created in Dave’s name, The Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship. This would allow students showing financial need and exceptional inking skill to receive more funds toward their tuition from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Artist Nathan Massengill was brought into the core group after Dave’s passing and after the results of the 2009 awards were announced.
In March the organization introduced their new spokesperson character, Ms. Inkwell, conceived by Bob Almond and visually designed by artist Randy Green with assistance from Nathan Massengill. Gina Kirlew would design the character’s logo. The character would debut publicly at the Pittsburgh Comicon on April 23–25 thanks to artist and Inkwell model liaison Louis Small, Jr. and model Chrissy Cutler. Other models were later scheduled for various venues on the annual convention tour.
In 2010 Wizard Entertainment VP Peter Katz offered sponsorship for the Inkwell Awards and a live ceremony at one of their shows and agreed to bring in the award recipients. While there was some promotional advertising printed in their Wizard magazine and briefly on their website, much of this agreement was never fulfilled resulting with an end to the business relationship. The Inkwell Awards expanded their ambassador line-up for more exposure by adding artist Ethan Van Sciver early in the year, and later followed up by artists Mark Brooks, Mike McKone, Trevor Von Eeden, and Sal Velluto. In early 2011 Vanguard publisher J. David Spurlock was welcomed aboard.
In December of 2010 Bob launched the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge with Joe’s approval and support. The concept was one borrowed with permission from art rep and supporter Steve Morger who acts as promoter of the Super-Con (now the Big-Wow Comicfest) and who has an annual con inking panel and posts the inks by various artists over donated pencil art in his CAF gallery and auctions off the art for fundraising. Committee discussions about the idea started in 2009 and originally Dave Simons pencil art was considered for the project but they ultimately settled on the pencil art of Joe from his previous variant blank cover pencil donations. The idea was to post the various inked versions of Joe’s blue lined pencil art at the Inkwell’s CAF gallery for educational purposes allowing the public to compare the final inked versions to the pencils in order to see what the ink artist contributes. The pieces would subsequently be auctioned off for Inkwell fundraising. Contributors included Bob McLeod, Keith Williams, Michael Allred, Joe Rubenstein, Klaus Janson, Terry Austin, Pablo Marcos, Bob Wiacek, Dan Parsons, Ernie Chan, Jay Leisten and many more. The revealing of the pieces and the auctions took place late spring of 2011 on both the CAF gallery and CAF auctions.
In order to operate fundraising more-efficiently, both Bob Shaw and Bob Almond, and the committee discussed alternatives to eBay and decided to set up a ComicArtFans auction account, a fledgling auction venue at that time from the gallery site. New contributor Erick Korpi introduced his friend Phil Healy to Bob in late January and Phil was recruited as a new contributor to establish an Inkwell account there and to launch auctions in February, and to alternate with Bob on eBay auctions. The organization later assessed that the CAF auctions, while free, offered much lower bidding returns, evident especially with the lackluster results of the 1st Sinnott Inking Challenge art auctions. The 2nd Sinnott Inking Challenge would subsequently take place on eBay.
Discussion began in late 2010 between Heroes Con and Bob Almond about Heroes hosting and co-sponsoring a live awards ceremony following-up on the disappointment of the Wizard deal not living up to their promises. Promoter Shelton Drum and Bob approved of the relationship for an annual ceremony and the Inkwells also added a live auction to the first event. At the ceremony it was announced that Bob Shaw would be departing the organization and that Michael Kellar and contributor Stacey Aragon would be joining the core committee team. Like all previous departing members, Bob received a silver inkwell trophy as thanks for his three years served. Artist Cully Hamner was announced as an incoming ambassador. Ceremony participants included Bob Almond as Emcee/host, Tim Townsend as Presenter, Dan Panosian as Keynote Speaker, Ethan Van Sciver as auctioneer, Ms. Inkwell spokesmodel Kathy Tayler as Hostess, Erick Korpi as auction assistant, and volunteers Ryan Beaman and Chris Woodard.
Nathan Massengill filled in for Bob Shaw on eBay auctions prior to the Heroes Con and for part of the summer. Phil Healy was relieved of the auctioneer/contributor position. After a brief hiatus, Michael Kellar resumed the auctions in the fall and Nathan resigned from the committee.
For the 5th season contributor Sarah L. Covert was enlisted to develop the website and handle the social networks (previously handled by Stacey) and she was soon promoted to a committee member as their ‘Techno-Queen’. In the fall of 2011 several projects were carried out. The second Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge took place with participants including some returning artists and some new ones such as Jose Marzan, Jr., Ken McFarlane, Charles Barnett III, Bob Wiacek, Jim Tournas, Joe Rubenstein, J.E. Lozano, Gerry Acerno, Trevor Von Eeden, Kent Archer, Johnny B. Gerardy, Michael W. Kellar, Mark McKenna, Marc Deering, Keith Williams, Michael L. Peters, Tom Schloendorn, Ken Branch, Travis Miller, Keith Champagne, J. David Spurlock, Rick Hoberg, Noah Barrett, John Floyd, Mike Pascale, Neil Vokes and Terry Austin. Due to a limited number of available volunteers for the new Nomination Committee, Stacey was made NomCom Liaison and she successfully recruited several new members allowing the NomCom team to commence with research and nominating for the 2013 awards. Regarding the Inkwell social networks, ComicSpace was dropped and Google+ and YouTube accounts were added. Four new ambassadors were announced as being brought aboard the team with artists Phil Jimenez and Eric Basuldua having been recruited at the previous Pittsburgh Comicon, and legends Joe Kubert and Jim Shooter agreeing to join up later in the year. The organization also began production on the first collection of work for the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge Book 1 with Daniel Best handling text and Bob and Jimmy doing the usual production. Thanks to the efforts of Ron Marz’ CBR column ‘Shelf Life’ who plugged the book after being impressed by his pal Terry Austin’s extraordinary intro in it, the book sold record numbers for the Inkwells in early 2012. Danny, a founder, would end the year dropping down from committee to contributor status and Henry Covert, Sarah’s husband, would be added as another Contributing Chronicler. And as the original Inkwell Awards forum was consolidated into the new website by Sarah, artist Jay Leisten, a longtime volunteer at the old forum, became a Contributing Moderator at the new venue, along with Mike Kellar.
For early 2012, besides collecting donations on the west coast for the group’s fundraising needs, Stacey acted as Volunteer Network Coordinator and she brought Thomas Deja aboard to collect donations at the New York Comic Book Marketplace and through Bob she coordinated with new volunteer Joe Goulart for the Boston Comic Con for donation collecting. The NomCom ballots were collected and the committee began tallying and validating votes for the ballot. Mark McKenna and Julian LeBeck dropped out from being contributors and convention assistant Ray Burke was promoted to Multimedia Contributor to prepare for the slideshow and video recording for the upcoming Heroes Con live awards ceremony. Just prior to the ceremony the intended Ms. Inkwell model in training Ciara Michelle became pregnant and a new model, Haley Greenleaf, was recruited to replace her. Further last minute upsets continued, including Presenter Ethan Van Sciver disappearing at the show when the ceremony was about to take place with artist Marc Deering promptly agreeing to replace him and the technical equipment falling short from working. But the event played out fine with a new Presentation card design created by Gina Kirlew being used, Stacey announced as taking a leave of absence, and a request was stated in the speech asking the Eisner Awards to reinstate the individual Inker category. Ceremony participants were Bob as Host, Haley as Hostess, Marc as Presenter, Bob McLeod as Keynote Speaker, and Guest Speakers Bob Shaw and Dan Panosian who introduced the Hall of Fame recipients, and Ray Burke and volunteer Ryan Beaman. For the Special Recognition Awards Daniel Best and Nathan Massengill were awarded a silver inkwell for their committee service and Joe Sinnott was given a unique trophy and retroactive title of a Special Ambassador.
Over the season-transitional summer period some developments took place such as Stacey Aragon needing to take a Leave of Absence in June for personal reasons (which subsequently became an actual departure for the indefinite future) and included an FAQ page being created by Bob and added to the site by Sarah (followed by completion of new Hall of Fame entries and Ms. Inkwell entry for Haley Greenleaf). The Social Networks being utilized changed a bit as Stacey had created accounts on Google+ and YouTube before her departure and MySpace, seriously overshadowed by the success of Facebook, was eliminated.
The agenda for the fall/winter of 2012 includes production of the second Sinnott Inking Challenge and the Ms. Inkwell Gallery collection books and setting up a new NomCom and initiating the 3rd Sinnott Challenge. To kick off the season and the related lofty goals Michael Kellar was promoted to Assistant Director in August to help take on some of Bob’s work load. Tragically, soon after this, Inkwell Ambassador and industry legend Joe Kubert passed away after more than a year of support. But with his sons Adam and Andy at the helm to continue his legacy, the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Kubert Art Store sponsorship of board supplies to the Sinnott Inking Challenge both annually proceed to this day.
Sue Soares was recruited in September to assist as a contributor for publicity/social network duties while Sarah was tied up temporarily elsewhere and later that month brought aboard as a full-fledged core committee member to fill in the spot left by Stacey. Sarah subsequently inherited back her social network obligations and Sue inherited the position of Social Networks Alternate as well as the Inker Database and Inker Resources sections of the site as well as the position of NomCom Liaison to work alongside Bob. Contributing Chronicler Henry Covert had the duty of Wikipedia X-Referencing added to his plate so that he could add Inkwell Awards info to pages missing them such as artist award recipients, ambassadors, etc. The organization picked up Bags Unlimited as a vender supporter and sponsor of preservation supplies needed for the auctions and shipping.
After a site database update and PR announcement rewrite October led to the quick resignation of Susan from the core committee upon the realization that she could not properly handle the duties she’d agreed to take on. Sarah inherited the NomCom Liaison position and with Bob initiated that in late October. Ultimately, Bob took over that duty because contacted parties were not responding to Sarah. Two new contributors were added to the team when problems arose regarding preparation of the updated brochures for a fall printer order and veteran graphic designer Kina Kirlew was not available. Christopher Ehnot saved the day and was recruited as a Graphic Designer and Mike Pascale was also picked up for the same title, helping to create certificates of authenticity for the organizations signed & numbered merchandise and with intentions to assist Bob with the upcoming Ms. Inkwell Gallery book. And preparation was made for upcoming conventions and new supportive venues Albany Comic-Con and Rhode Island Comic Con. The month’s highlight was the addition of publisher, author and filmmaker Brian Pulido to the advocacy as an incoming ambassador.
The invitation for the 3rd Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge was emailed by Mike Kellar on November 5, 2012. Ernie Pelletier resigned that month as the first legal counsel and a senior contributor. Bob decided to postpone the Ms. Inkwell Gallery indefinitely and in December Jim suggested using Indiegogo as a program to help fund book production expenses in lieu of sponsors and instead of using the Inkwell general budget and talks to form the program began with Mike Kellar. While the 2nd Sinnott Inking Challenge debuted at Albany, it was a printer defect edition, many signed by Joe, with a later corrected edition finally appearing in late February. Joe Goulart was promoted from a volunteer and brought aboard in December and officially as new core committee member on January 14, 2013, acting as Administrative Assistant, helping Bob with bagging, labeling and certificating signed book editions in the book inventory, scanning donations for auctions, and contacting artists and collecting donations at local shows like the Boston Comic Con. Following this, artist and contributor Mike Pascale was added to the committee in February as General Assistant with handling graphic design work like new business cards, assisting Kellar on auction research & info, and press releases. Also that month Mark Sinnott was retroactively made a Senior Contributor (Joe Sinnott Liaison) from 2008 to present.
Also in December and February respectively, attorney Tena Kerns was brought aboard as their non-profit and trademark counsel and Mike Andre was brought on as the organization’s first accountant. In March contributor Johnny B. Gerardy was brought in to resume updates at the website’s Inking Resources section left vacant by Stacey Aragon. In March, after having tallied and validated all of the 5 top categories on the ballot from the NomCom, Bob initiated the new Sinnott Hall of Fame Awards, after having consulted with J. David Spurlock, Mark and Joe Sinnott and the Committee. It was decided that that prestigious category would now be fully handled internally amongst the core committee and associates (former committee, ambassadors, contributors, and former award recipients). This would allow more emphasis on the accomplishments of the artists, preferably those still around to truly appreciate the award, and less on being a popularity contest among a public audience not as familiar to their names and career works. Henry and Sarah Covert handled the database update that month. And the Simons Scholarship Fund goal was reached and sent to The Kubert School, mostly thanks to Bette Simons, Gerry Acerno and two anonymous donators.
In April ink artist Dave Beaty was brought in as a contributor, acting as another graphic designer and Nomination Committee Liaison for later that year. That same month, due to inactivity the Inkwell Awards forum was closed down. It had existed in one form or another since 2008 from the Inker.org site-based forum to the one that was added to the revised Inkwell Awards main site. This ultimately ended Jay Leisten’s duty as a forum moderator, something he did unofficially at the old forum and had been promoted as a contributor in 2012. The month ended on a low-note when the Boston Marathon Bombing took place a few days before the Boston Comic Con scheduled for April 20-21. While the Inkwells didn’t have plans to attend the venue, Joe Goulart was preparing for weeks by contacting creators on their guest list to collect donations for cover all of our needs for the ends of the season. The manhunt for the terrorists closed down the city and the show was rescheduled for the summer, leaving the organization without the necessary resources (although kudos to Joe for scrambling about the region all weekend to collect what items he could from creators who relocated at local signings and mini-shows). Bob and MikeK had no choice but to prematurely auction off the inventory of Ms. Inkwell artwork intended for the gallery book which had been in schedule limbo. But this Boston crisis led to Bob connecting with Enrica Jang to help promote the non-profit charity We Win Con which she promptly organized to help creators recoup their lost travel expenses and other charities to gain some funds they’d planned on collecting. Inkers were among the artists who lost out.
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