If you’ve tried visiting the site lately you’ve no doubt stumbled upon error messages. This is due to me being on shared hosting and using too many resources. Mostly it comes from WordPress plugins acting up. Eventually I want to move up from shared hosting once I can afford it. For now I’ve been cleaning things up and trying not to rely so heavily on 3rd party plugins. The archive dropdowns, for example, are now powered by the widgets that came with Webcomic and Inkblot. This required some tinkering as I’d tried to keep them working with ComicPress should I decide to switch back to it. That became too much hassle and now I’ve just decided to stick with WC&IB. I also accidentally broke the Lil’ Reaper Books page recently and figured that was as good a sign as any to fold it under the main page with the other sites. I’d only been holding off on moving it since I didn’t really have anything to sell yet and I wanted to look around for a decent shopping cart script. I’ve since found one I’m going to try working with and we’ll see how it goes. Lastly I’ve been dealing with how I’m going to incorporate my twitter posts with the blog and vice versa. Twittertools was a nice all-in-one solution but it sucks up resources by doing so much and has it’s fair share of bugs every update. Not to mention getting it to do what I wanted required more and more plugins as time went on, resulting in more resource hogging. So I went looking for a plugin that could tweet when I update the blog and use bit.ly for URL shortening. At the moment I’m trying WP to Twitter. If that doesn’t work properly I’ll try something else. (I just want auto-tweeting with an on/off button per post) For displaying tweets in the sidebar I got Twitter Widget Pro, though I may just switch back to the default Twitter html widget or something if I don’t do much in terms of styling the tweets as they show up here.
There are many different ways to approach drawing, both stylistically and from a technical standpoint. I’m just going to go over the things I’ve cribbed from my years of studying and practice. Hopefully you can pull something useful from these concepts.
This is something I picked up as an animator because we have to be able to turn our characters, keep them solid, and make the actions read well on screen. There are different degrees of understructure, the most basic being the Line of Action, as illustrated by Preston Blair. (And explained further in depth on the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive)
The line of action is a simple line showing the direction the drawing is moving in. This is important because it makes your drawings more dynamic. Rather than the stiff static figure being parked in place, you have fun posing. Once that’s figured out, you can start placing the Skeleton Foundation. The skeleton foundation is a stick figure you use to keep arms and legs the same relative length with each other and to figure out positioning. Once you have that it’s merely a matter of building up the overlapping shapes of the character on top of it. Remember when designing characters to try and give them Unique Shapes and Silhouettes to distinguish them from each other. Another thing to remember when constructing a character is to use dimensional shapes that have depth. Instead of working with squares and circles, think in cubes and spheres. Rotating Screwy Squirrel’s head is a lot easier when you see it as a solid shape that can be moved, rather than the outline that defines it in one drawing. Also, organic shapes like muscles squash and stretch. Usually you’ll find one part of the body squashing while the other’s stretching. This creates a dynamic asymmetric figure that looks more believable. At Disney they explain it as Avoiding Twins. (John K talks in depth about this on his blog)
Be sure to draw through your figures to get placement right. We’re all guilty sometimes of hiding a hand behind a head and just assuming we know what it looks like. Don’t just draw what you think you know is there. Draw what is there. Sometimes you’ll be surprised when you realize you have the length of an arm off or need to show more of something because it’s not as hidden as you think it should be. Plus taking the shortcut of always drawing stock poses without developing them underneath can cause the poses to become too stylized and abstractions of what they’re really supposed to be.
Looking Inside a Drawing
I had a classmate once who could do very good line drawings of the models in the style of Michelangelo. He was frustrated, however, because he couldn’t turn his drawings or adjust for the distortions brought on by perspective. Once he drew something as he saw it, he couldn’t easily move it to another angle. The professor sat down with him and explained the idea of blocking in a box for the chest which could then be positioned and he could then lay down his linework on top of that. Contour and line is an important part of making a drawing look nice. But if your figure isn’t structured underneath lines are only going to get you so far. Now, some artists have a very design-centric style that doesn’t rely so heavily on depth, but they usually develop that look once they practice life drawing and learn basics. Even the most simple-looking drawing can have a wealth of knowledge behind it on making it work.
Talent vs. Skill
Here’s something that gets brought up on forums and such a lot and I thought I’d mention it. Drawing is by and large a skill. Some people may have a knack for it naturally but anybody can learn and improve over time. Too easily we dismiss the ability to draw well as some magical God-given power that only the lucky ones get. Mystifying drawing like that is a discredit to the hard work artists put into making their art better. If you were a doctor would you rather have somebody say you’re talented for being able to perform surgery or would you rather have them recognize the years you spent in med school? When I hear people say, “I wish I could do that,” I usually turn to them and ask why they don’t. Then I get the litany of reasons why they never had the time, they had bills to pay first, so on and so forth. Which is all well and good. But it doesn’t mean I just got the ability to draw one day. I made a constant effort to improve on the things I was having trouble with. I still make that effort.
Drawing is a skill in much the same way writing is. Some people may take to it early. But an artist learns, grows, figures out what works and what doesn’t. Lots of people who start out wanting to be artists have a few things they’re good at drawing, then they get asked to step outside of their comfort zone and can struggle. Some fall back on the defense, “Well, my family and friends all think I’m good.” That’s great. Your loved ones should be supportive. But when you start trying to sell your pieces your family or friends probably can’t buy them all. Eventually, if you want to make art that appeals to people who don’t know you, you have to work at it. Just as the creative writer who’s really good at poetry has to learn to outline, edit, and reword an essay, the cartoonist who’s really good at drawing anime faces should learn anatomy, perspective, and backgrounds.
Toning/Rendering/Developing an Image
This is more a word of caution than anything else. Don’t start shading/rendering/toning/whatever your drawings until they’re ready for it. I see this in life drawing a lot when people don’t block in their figures right and then jump into shading only to find they have to move a face or change an angle. Don’t be afraid of reworking a drawing. Do a light, quick gesture and work on it. If a leg’s at the wrong angle, redraw it in a better one. If you’re working in graphite you probably won’t even need to erase the first attempt because it’ll disappear into the reworking you’re going over and developing. Some artists will do a bad drawing and freeze, wad it up and start again or storm off in a huff. There are times when starting fresh is a good idea. Say after you draw a panel and realize the poses are great but the angle needs reworking. Or maybe you’ve sketched up the page with pencil already and you want to draw something new in while keeping older elements. There’s no strike in that.
Photoshop is not some all-magical solution to your problems. It’s a great tool for accomplishing tasks but it’s not a substitute for skills or fundamentals. In the right hands it can speed up workflow and produce some very beautiful and clean art. In the wrong hands it can make a lazy artist look lazy with pizazz. I’m not saying this as somebody in his ivory tower looking down. I’m saying this as a former lazy artist trying to reform himself and encourage others.
When I was a kid I used to draw detective stories in black, white, and red. Why? Because old movies would sometimes only print one color like red, or sometimes the color element would be hand-colored. Of course I’d grown up with color films, but something drew me to the look of those movies. It was something different and interesting to look at. It also worked well for the subject matter. I think what I liked was how it felt like we were viewing something archival. Like something from out of it’s time that we happened to stumble upon. After movies like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Sin City, this sort of thing is more common.
Let me ask you, what influences did you grow up on? Most webcartoonists probably have the same immediate answers. Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot, Bloom County… I loved old Warner Brothers cartoons, like many other animators do. I also read Little Golden Books. Can you think of any up and coming webcomics that might have read some of these growing up?
Something else I remember fondly from my childhood is the Viewmaster. These were the slides that came on a roll and would create a 3D image if you looked through the special glasses with both eyes. Today with video cameras on every cellphone we take novelties like the Viewmaster, 8mm films, and flipbooks for granted. There was a time when watching film meant physically spooling it up and dealing with the projector eating it occasionally. To me this isn’t only nostalgia, considering my family only had a handful of home movies on 8mm and it was always a hassle to talk them into digging them out to watch. It was much easier to turn on the TV and watch something there. It felt more special to set up a screen and projector. It was like getting treated to a real movie with all the production that had to go into viewing it. Though I was born into the beginning of the VCR age where film was more easily accessible, I found some charm in looking to older technology.
Jeff Smith, creator of Bone, made this little video showing us around the Cartoon Books studio, as well as describing some of the research he did for the Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil book he did for DC. He brings up comic book hero clubs and decoder messages.
With that, I want to take us back to a time of pulp novel covers. Amazing Stories, The World Aflame, cover by Leo Morey, 1935 makes me think of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. Scientists in white lab coats surrounded by tubes and machinery and a curious light. It gets the imagination running just pondering what could be going on there. And that’s what creativity is, at it’s core – letting your imagination out to play and making things up. Since it’s Halloween season, and I just watched Creepshow and Zombie Strippers this weekend, lets look at EC Horror comics.
Yes they’re designed to be ugly and scary, but you can’t deny the style or the skill that went into them. How comic books could be producing art like this and still be considered “throw away entertainment” I’ll never know. Horror can be fun, like hearing a ghost story around the campfire or watching a scary movie. I remember I used to love Tales from the Cryptkeeper in my younger days. It’s not hard to see the impression it, Beetlejuice, and the Real Ghostbusters had on me.
Everybody works different schedules so some folks take the weekend off, some only get to work on their projects in the evening or on weekends. Me, I usually take the weekend to recharge. Sometimes I try to work through parts of it but that seldom works well. I can understand loving what you do and not wanting to take breaks. When I was at the art institute and taking the traditional animation classes, we’d have about 3 breaks and I would only ever take the last one when I was starting to cramp because I was just having too much fun to stop. However weekends are different from hourly breaks because sometimes it feels like the entire week’s load has piled on you and you just need to relax. If you can, allow yourself some time to break. You appreciate the projects more when you can come back to them fresh and rested.
Protip for the college crowd: Don’t stay up late on Sunday night and drag yourself in half dead on Monday morning. I know assignments can often only be finished in one large crunch session, which results in an all-nighter when you’re pinned in by other things. Instead, schedule yourself to stay up late Saturday night. Make a night of it with your buddies. Or if you can’t get anybody else in, try it by yourself. On Sunday night you’ll see tons of people hurrying to get their work done before the dawn so they can try to get some sleep. If you do it Saturday 9 times out of 10 everyone’s out somewhere else partying. This works great when you have to work in a lab with limited resources. I can’t even tell you how nice it is to work on stuff when nobody else is around and you have everything to yourself. Then you head out the door and everybody comes piling in and lines start forming to take turns using printers or other things.
In my opinion, the weekend is taking it easy on Friday, doing something fun on Saturday, then taking Sunday to recover and going to bed early. I’m eager when I go to bed sometimes because I get to work on my own projects and Monday morning always feels like a clean slate. Yet I know it’s important to get that good night’s rest before. I’ve tried starting too early on Monday (Probably closer to a late Sunday night) and I burn through that early excitement too quickly. The body needs rest and if you don’t give it that up front it will take it from you later on when you need energy. I’ve tried napping later and the result is usually feeling more tired when you wake up or just crashing all day. I know it’s hard when there are other people trying to get you to stay up and you need to be in bed. I shoot for going to bed at 11 as the latest, though plenty of times I miss that mark. When I set my alarm the next day, I try to give myself at least 6 hours from when I go to bed. Trying to make yourself get up early even when you can’t get to bed on time is rarely worth it. On the other hand, I’ve had success setting my alarm an hour later than I ideally wanted to get up and plowing through the day because I got a decent sleep. Granted I think I work best early in the morning and would rather be up then, but I’d rather work longer on 6 hours sleep than go on 3 or 4 and crash harder faster.
Yes, I know 6 is less than 8 and you should get a full 8 hours of sleep at night but that feels like oversleeping to me. I always wake up too early naturally and stare at my clock for 2 hours, only making myself tired again. It’s better to just get up than try to force yourself to sleep. Plus I have a habit of sleeping 6 hours during the week and then sleeping in considerably later on weekends. I also have a habit of waking up before my alarm when I know I’ve set it. At that point it only serves as an incentive to get up in my head. I also recently switched to using my old iPod Photo (Color iPod, whatever they’re calling that model) as an alarm clock because my iPod Classic, though giving more advanced options, doesn’t go off when you set it. You have to satisfy conditions of some sort. It has to not be paused, you can’t leave a playlist open even if you’ve finished playing every track in it, you can’t leave an album open – of course, these are just guesses because whether I satisfy these conditions or not, the alarm only ever goes off if it decides it feels like it. And the whole dismiss option that pops up when the alarm goes off, well, I just have no idea about that whole thing. So I went back to my old iPod as an alarm because you just set it and it goes off. I really needed music because a short “EEP EEP! EEP! EEP!” Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â does not encourage me to wake up. Music playing, on the other hand, is gentle and you can listen to it a couple minutes where you actually wake up before switching it off. Then I have the other alarm set on a 15 minute delay from the iPod, in case I still haven’t gotten out of bed. Again, it’s more a mental thing and rarely do I have to switch it off. Such is my morning routine. It’s actually quite nice when you turn some music on, grab a hot shower, a bagel, and some orange juice.
I hope everybody’s enjoying these blog posts I’m making in the morning before I start work. I’m planning on doing these regularly to keep myself motivated and focused. Plus I like sharing what I’m doing. Once the actual pages run on the site I’ll post some of the sketches and discuss the issues I had to deal with on them. Today I’m going back to my drawing studio. Ever since I moved my computer out into the TV room I’ve been avoiding holing myself up in the room with my drafting table. But there’s only so much you can get drawn in your lap and I’m finding myself distracted by being at my computer. Granted, it’s great for checking reference, but the constant temptation to be playing around online rather than drawing is one I should probably be avoiding.
I’ve got pages of character designs/prop sketches I’ve been flipping through as I work to keep things consistent and looking more developed. I’ve got a sheet of thumbnails I put together for the pages I’m doing, though some of the panel layouts are confusing when they’re just squiggles less than an inch tall. So far I’ve been trying to work each page out on the sheet of pencils as I draw but I think today I need to map the shots out better. I’m going to try drawing a floor plan of the 2 rooms in the scene, then drawing them in proper perspective, then dropping the characters in. It sounds like a lot of work but I’m sick of seeing the characters smooshed up to the front of the panel when I know I can be giving them more dynamic angles and poses to work in. So it’s back to the drawing room for me as I try to organize all these loose sheets of paper and pages in my sketchbooks. I’ve also got these books from the library that I’m using for inspiration. I just need to crank up the stereo and zone out for awhile.
Today I’ll be working on studies/sketches to try and get these panels to look right. Rather than defaulting to my comfort zone of straight on I’m going to take the time to get these different camera angles and perspectives worked out. That’s how you grow as an artist. It’s also how you make your characters more solid – by getting comfortable with them in multiple dimensions. I designed them with geometric shapes I can turn in real space, it’s just a matter of figuring out how these views impact those shapes.
If you’ve used Pandora or Last.fm you’re familiar with the Music Genome Project for finding music similar to your tastes.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Musicovery does the same thing except it gives you a visual representation of your songs in tree form. You can select music in terms of calm/energetic and dark/positive and by color-coded genre. Downside is you can’t click to the next song without a premium account, but you can just click to start a new search so it’s not totally useless. If you’re on a mac like I am, try the site-specific browser app Fluid. It turns the site into a launchable app and keeps it out of your surfing.
I spend a decent amount of time on IRC, IM, skype calls, and so on. One thing that keeps cropping up is the word “drama”. I will say there’s less webcomic drama these days than there was when I started. Part of it may just be the phasing out of people who used to run in those circles. When trolls get bored they tend to move on to find new targets. But I also think it’s because people are tired of seeing it and the average person doesn’t respond to it anymore. There’s always going to be gossipy insider in-crowd people who thrive on it, but I’ve found the energy you surround yourself with and generate is the kind you get back. You can be nasty and hostile Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â – Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â just means that’s the kind of attention you’re going to see back.
Drama can extend beyond internet quarreling to basically anything that derails you from what you’re trying to achieve. Real life is often a drama machine. Work, relationships, family, all these things can cause friction. And with webcomics a lot of folks don’t know how to handle their regular stress so it gets dumped in the blog as they explain why they couldn’t post their regular update. What seems to set the professionals off from the hobbyists are two things: How they deal with stress impacting their work and how they cope with it. The first part is a little harder to figure out than the second because we rarely see it. I find it important to pull yourself aside when you’re frustrated and look at things logically. I can be as emotional in my responses as anybody else. However I know letting myself get torn up over something doesn’t help the situation and it only hinders my ability to fix it. First you have to be calm, focused, and ready to handle your problems. You have to not blow up when you’re mad and you have to not get shaken to your core when somebody hurts or offends you. Take the time to get it out of your system, clear your head, and then come back to deal with it.
If you’re getting frustrated with your work, or the way people view your work, remember to relax and try to enjoy yourself. There are days when you’re just not pitching your “A” game. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you’re really on top of things and other times you’re struggling to keep up. As long as you’re striving to make every day a good day for yourself you’re accomplishing something. Working every day on something can be difficult. Occasionally you can grow to resent it and avoid it. Other times you get intimidated by how huge a project may seem and recoil in anxiety. You have to be able to step into work mode and be able to leave it at a certain point. Just as you shouldn’t bring your troubles from home into the office you shouldn’t bring your troubles from the office home.
When it comes to dealing with your problems on your blog – don’t. I mean, if you run a site about the trials and tribulations of being a working parent or something where your audience expects you to let loose with your frustrations, by all means. However we shouldn’t treat blogs like livejournals. Readers have their own things going on in their lives that they’re probably bummed out about already and I’ve never known of a blog to get popular with people for being whiney. I like to keep a journal sometimes if I’m busy and I quarantine off negative entries because that stuff can be toxic. It can be a load to carry and if you revisit it you can sour your mood all over again. You’ll need to let it all out but don’t let it infect your day to day. Guy Gilchrist wrote, in part of his Drawn to Success series, that you should write down all your goals and ambitions in one batch of journals and all your fears and worries in another. Then never read the worries journals and burn them.
I’m going to paraphrase a speech I heard Bruce Springsteen gave to his band once. To you this may just be another gig, but to the guy out in the audience, he’s been waiting maybe all week for this show. He told his buddies about it, got all excited for it. Maybe he put in a hard week at the factory and now’s his chance to have a good time . So it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a bad night, got in a fight with your old lady, whatever. None of that matters. When you put on a show, you bring it or you go home. Now lets go put on the best show we can and give ’em something to talk about on Monday.
At least it is today in my studio. All too often we fall into a daily grind of having to be places we’d rather not be and doing things we’d rather not be doing. It’d be great if we could slack off all day every day and magically stuff gets done behind us. But until life turns into a Walgreen’s commercial we need to be proactive about enjoying ourselves while we work. Yes, the comfort of routine and ritual can be great for getting into a creative mood but it’s also good for we artists to remember we’re supposed to enjoy what we’re doing.
Bill Watterson said in his commencement speech to Kenyon College, “It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I’ve learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it’s how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I’ve found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.”
While there’s plenty of actual work and labor in making cartoons, we need to approach it with an amount of levity and fun. If comics aren’t fun to make on some level they aren’t going to be very fun to read. One of the biggest criticisms I had of my work in college was you could see where I was getting bored. I took all sorts of care with the foreground characters, for example, but when it came time to give that kind of attention to the background, “Ugh! I just want this to be over!” *SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH* By not developing the work to the full extent of my potential I was cheating myself as an artist and cheating the viewers. But how do you make tedium not boring? A big part of it is to not let yourself become frustrated. You find fun and joy wherever you can. If something isn’t working, try coming at it from a different angle. When tuning a guitar it’s easiest to move the string even further out of tune to know which way to pull it back in. The same goes for drawing. Don’t like where the line work is going? Change it up. Even if the next line is absolutely wrong, at least you’ve narrowed the playing field on where it shouldn’t be.
Lastly I want to recommend some music. Or just noise if that’s your thing. I rarely have the TV going while I work because I focus my attention on what I’m doing at the time but sometimes re-watching things I enjoy is relaxing. I know I’ve seen them all but I keep enjoying the Angry Video Game Nerd video reviews regardless. The nice thing about being on the web is that other like-minded folks are on there and sometimes we all congregate in the same place. I’ve often said Ustream.tv is like the Denny’s of the webcomic world – If you’re up at 2am stop by and you’ll see everybody else is there. Dave Kellett, Tom Brazelton, Scott Kurtz, Mike Krahulik, Kris Straub, Abby Lark, Fred Gallagher, Brad Guigar, DJ Coffman, Evan Dahm, Magnolia Porter, Lis Boriss, Lar deSouza, Kory Bingaman, Paul Southworth, David Malki, Scotty Arsenault, Charlie Trotman, Joel Watson, Meredith Gran, and plenty of others use it. On Livestream.com you can also find Kris Straub, Greg Dean, David Willis, as well as some others if you bother to look. It’s fun to peek behind the creative curtain and sometimes you just wanna hear some voices while you draw.
For getting in a party mood I really want to recommend Red Voodoo by Sammy Hagar and the Waboritas.
It’s a great party album with Sammy’s touring band, the opening track is live, and it’s all-around solid and fun. I also recommend anything by the Aquabats. I know I blast Charge! quite regularly.
Costumed superhero punk/ska? How can you go wrong with that? I also highly recommend the Foxboro Hot Tubs’ Stop Drop and Roll.
The Foxboro Hot Tubs are chiefly comprised of members of Green Day, however this record is swingin’ 60s-styled pop rock that will usually wake you up if you’re in a funk in the morning. And lastly, I’d like to suggest The Epoxies – Stop the Future.
There are plenty of other fun scifi punk/new wave bands out there, but the Epoxies put on a great show when I saw them and listening to their music just brings me back to the sound of synth keyboards, loud guitars, and the laser pointers mounted on said guitars shining in your eye.
This is a question posed by Merlin Mann recently in an interview with Scott Kurtz for Webcomics Weekly. As I understood it, Mr. Mann believes this is the question guidance counselors should be asking instead of the abstract, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You could answer such a question with, “An adult.” The true heart of the matter is, what do you want to spend your time doing? What’s important to you, what activity makes you happy and feel most accomplished spending your time on? Do that. When you say you wanna be a cartoonist, or a doctor, or what have you, you’re clinging to some idealized end goal. Everyone tells the kid who wants to be a doctor, “Hey, that’s great! Good luck with that.” Then he realizes how hard it is to get into med school, and how long it takes, how much work is really involved. So instead he becomes something else – possibly related to medicine and possibly something else entirely.
I was pondering this when my alarm went off at 6 this morning. 6 am on a Saturday. Why would any person set his alarm for such a time on the weekend unless he had to be somewhere? Because I need to be here. I need to get some work done on this project so I can launch it. I need to draw this thing I’m seeing in my head because it looks really cool and I’m eager to show other people what I’m seeing. The cat and I are the only ones up in the house right now, the folks I stay up late talking to are all asleep, and honestly I love being up early in the morning. I feel productive and it’s when I actually do some good work. What other reward is there for being up this early except the satisfaction of being able to work in peace? I was eager when I went to bed. I really wanted to get rested and start today off.
Is it hard to do this reliably? You bet. I’ll get up early a couple days in a row, then something will happen that’ll keep me up until one in the morning, or I’ll be wiped out and can’t get out of bed until noon. So why do it? Because I want to be here at this hour. I need to be here. Every day we gets preempted by other people, their wants, their needs, their problems. And you can make an honest effort to help them and give of your time. But sometimes you give too much of yourself. Sometimes to the point where you’re frustrated and sometimes to the point where you’re wondering what happened to your own work. I’m still trying to learn how to properly deal with other people myself. But what I can do is be proactive about my own time. That can mean telling people I need to go to bed when I know I’m up early. Or it can be persevering in the morning even if you haven’t slept much. Whatever’s most important to you is worth pursuing.
Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t waste it living someone elseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s life. DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be trapped by dogma ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â which is living with the results of other peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s thinking. DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t let the noise of othersÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” It’s important to do what you want to do. Too often we forget this on the small scale and it comes back to bite us on the large scale. Some of the most productive and interesting people have a regular schedule they keep to because it makes them comfortable and the ritual puts them in the mindset to work. Stephen King has compared getting ready to work a lot like getting ready for bed. He’s also said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…“My own schedule is pretty clear-cut. Mornings belong to whatever is new ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically, mornings are my prime writing time.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â He writes when he’s fresh and ready to work, deals with other stuff after. I know so many people my age who wait until they’re done with everything else before ever starting their own work. And really, is that what you want to do with your day?
Currently I’m working on the prologue that’ll introduce us to the new comic. I’ve got a launch date set but I’m not ready to announce it. (I’d like to have material done in advance first.) What I can say is I’m figuring more out about the comic as I work on it. I’ll be releasing it in subchapters with each update being as long as that segment of the story requires. Once it gets rolling I’ll post blogs about the previous update with pencils, design sketches, and other development stuff. That way the site won’t just sit dormant in between story updates.
I think I’ll share some stuff now while I’m at it. I linked these on my twitter awhile ago asking for opinions on the rendering styles. It all started with a sketch of one of the main characters, Virgil.
From there I tried some toning techniques on him.
The first couple I tried different halftone fill patterns which can be a little unpredictable if they’re not uniform. I’ve done projects with them before and I know the headaches of trying to keep the same patterns consistently over multiple pages. By the 3rd I’d moved on to using grays. Then I thought I’d try using some colors so I could just play with the saturation levels. This would be handy for the things I’m going to do in color (Covers, posters, etc.) but I don’t want to spend the time rendering in color if I know I can’t print it like that. I also tinkered with knock-outs by coloring the outlines, which disappears on thin lines, especially when shrunk down.
I also tried to overlay a halftone pattern because I really wanted to invoke the feeling of an old newspaper comic or something salvaged from that era. Lowering the saturation on the second line of tests aged it a little but it also makes me think of tones in movies. If you look at the tones on Superman’s suit in Superman Returns, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I didn’t want the styling to call that much attention to itself so it’ll probably be more subdued in the end.
This is also just an early development sketch. His costume isn’t going to be as overly retrofied as this and his hair is going to be different. Over-all though he came out like I was visioning him. His structure is fun for dynamic posing and I’m looking forward to seeing how he looks in clean inks and finished rendering. I’m going to pencil each page per subchapter, then ink them, then render/letter them all. Cycle, rinse, repeat for the next subchapter. Meaning I need to complete each stage before I move on. Hopefully this adds some consistency and a little more polish to the whole thing.