Being Happy

  • On November 5, 2009 ·
  • By ·

Everybody deserves to be happy. But what is happiness? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows us the different levels of needs which can be met to obtain happiness. They’re in a pyramid form because the lower levels must be satisfied first before the upper levels can be achieved. First there’s the purely physical needs to sustain life. Then there’s safety and security. Follow that up with feeling loved and belonging. Above that is esteem and at the very top is self-actualization. This is an interesting way to consider it but maybe a little too methodical and strategic for practical use. It’s good for picking out on which stages you’re falling short in your attempts to correct yourself, at least. I find the older I get the more I agree with this quote from Aristotle,

With respect to acting in the face of danger,
courage is a mean between
the excess of rashness and the deficiency of cowardice;

with respect to the enjoyment of pleasures,
temperance is a mean between
the excess of intemperance and the deficiency of insensibility;

with respect to spending money,
generosity is a mean between
the excess of wastefulness and the deficiency of stinginess;

with respect to relations with strangers,
being friendly is a mean between
the excess of being ingratiating and the deficiency of being surly;

and

with respect to self-esteem,
magnanimity is a mean between
the excess of vanity and the deficiency of pusillanimity.

In Buddhism and the Middle Way philosophy, avoiding extremes is recommended. I’ve seen people extremely ecstatic and extremely depressed. This roller coaster of emotions isn’t a path to happiness. The highs can feel really good when you’re on them but the lows bring you crashing down. It’s much more rewarding to spread the happiness around over-all with a fair consistency. This isn’t always possible but it’s a good goal to strive for with your day.

It’s important to surround yourself with positive energy. I don’t quite mean this in the chakra sense. I mean, if you want to be happy, spend time with happy people. Plenty of people are only happy if they have something to complain about. They’re unsatisfied so they seek to make other people so. I can understand the logic in that but it’s flawed. If you’re unhappy with your own situation you should focus on changing it rather than bringing other people down. This also swings the other way. Some people feel they have to help everybody. This is a noble gesture but it leaves you open to being taken advantage of as well as adding significantly to your own stress and anxiety. You can’t always help everybody and you can’t always solve every problem. You have to be realistic with yourself and your expectations. As long as you do your best, that’s all anybody can ask of you.

Charlie Chaplin became famous for playing the “Little Tramp,” a character who had a pretty sad existence but wormed his way into our hearts through his sympathetic nature and goofy antics. Though at one point he’s so poor he resorts to cooking a shoe, we laugh because of his “oh well” attitude and how he struggles to even manage something as simple as eating it. It’s the struggle we relate to. In his worn-out, ill-fitting suit, this little gentleman never gives up – something we’d all like to remember in the darkest times. If you’ve ever seen the movie Chaplin, you know he really did have a pretty rough life. Yet even today his films entertain us and we remember him with a smile.

Bill Cosby is another interesting case. For his doctoral research he wrote a dissertation, “An Integration of the Visual Media Via ‘Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids’ Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning.” He’s a very intelligent man. If you ever get the chance to watch an interview with him I suggest you do it. He has a way of speaking to children that isn’t talking down to them but rather speaking as a buddy. He’s often seen as a father figure based on his comedy routines and his series The Cosby Show. I got the chance to see him speak at my college several years ago. I know he’s said some controversial things at times but he’s a very interesting person to listen to and always entertaining.

Fred McFeely “Mister” Rogers is a staple in many people’s childhoods. His show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was a warm, gentle, friendly place. Some people make fun of it for being so inoffensive but it does deliver a certain charm to it’s intended audience. Above that, Rogers himself was quite possibly the nicest man in the world. From everything I’ve heard, he was a Presbyterian minister who didn’t drink, smoke, ate vegetarian, was such an advocate of recycling that he brought trash home with him when he went on vacation, and whenever he was asked to say something bad about non-Christians or gays he would sincerely say, “God loves you just the way you are.”

The Muppets are also a staple of many people’s childhoods. Even if you’re an adult now you can still enjoy Jim Henson’s funny, charming, and entertaining characters. They’re timeless and at their heart upbeat about life. It’s not always easy being green, as Kermit’s made famous, but it’s who he is and he’s fine with it. Just as we all should try to be happy with how we ourselves are.

Charles Monroe “Sparky” Shultz gave us Peanuts, a comic strip that has spawned movies, TV shows, musicals, you name it. Charlie Brown is the perpetual loser. Always hoping to kick that football. Always wanting to talk to the little red haired girl. The prime-time animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, dealt with depression and stress brought on by the over-commercialism of the holiday. It’s poignant, charming, and still holds up. At the end of the day, Charlie Brown goes to bed ready to try his luck again in the morning, because tomorrow’s another day.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is a movie you can watch over and over again, finding something new each time you see it. Paul Ruebens’s character is a perpetual child and the cartoony situations he finds himself in as he searches for his stolen bike never cease to bring a smile. In some ways he’s like the “Little Tramp,” always facing his challenges with silly optimism.

Robert Norman “Bob” Ross hosted The Joy of Painting. I got into disagreements with my professors in college about this show. I always found him entertaining and it’s pretty fascinating that he got a show about watching him paint landscapes. My profs considered him a gimmick to sell paint to amateurs to use a handful of tricks on. I, on the other hand, appreciate his ability to construct a scene out of thin air and have fun with it. This is important to remember when you’re doing those tedious backgrounds that comics folk hate to spend their time on. Instead of seeing it as a chore, he’d make up little stories to himself about the caves and the mountains, maybe imagining a little bear that lives there. His technique is also very fluid, never making mistakes, only “happy accidents.” He once said, “I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, ‘Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.’ That’s for sure. That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”

All of these people and characters set out to be happy regardless of what the world throws at them. It’s not always easy but I find when you smile at the world it can often smile back. 🙂

Thumbnailing and Layouts (DO IT)

Today I’d like to talk about thumbnailing and laying out comics. I learned very early on in my animation classes that laying things out is the greatest present you can give to yourself. It’s fun, for one thing, and it makes the rest of the process a lot easier. When you remove the mental burden of having to make a drawing a finished image and instead make it a study for yourself it’s incredibly freeing. You can change things, find what works, then refine it in your final piece. You don’t have to layout entire books at once or anything crazy like that, but you can layout sections at a time. This allows you to block out the storytelling early so when it comes to drawing pages and panels you’re focused on making the best illustration you can instead of worrying about how well it fits into the scene.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Oh, I just draw a gag-a-day talking heads strip, I don’t need to go through all that.” If all you want to do is make something uninspired that we’ve all seen before, go on ahead. Get it out of your system. I resisted myself for a long time because it felt like I was just drawing the comic twice. That’s not how you do good layout, however. Good layout is drawing just enough to make everything clear when you sit down to blow things up and add details. That’s when you can be inventive before scaling back to only using what works. It’s easy to do a first pass of a scene where everything’s very middle. The poses are passable, the camera angles are bland, and the expressions aren’t lively. Then you try things. You consider what can enhance a shot or make it more interesting. You make things more fun to draw and more fun to look at. I really recommend clicking through Bryan Lee O’Malley’s set on Flickr where he documents the development of his series Scott Pilgrim. He shares pages from his scripts, thumbnails and layouts, as well as inks.

Having Fun vs. Making Art

I don’t remember the exact date but I can tell you specifically when I decided to start making webcomics. I was in my college drawing class and we were working on a still life. Which means they pulled out some props from the back room, arranged them, and told us to draw. We all found the most approachable angles and started in. Let me be clear here: I was drawing a pile of shoes. There were other objects in the pile, but specifically there was a red lady’s heel and an old sneaker or two. I have nothing against shoes personally, but I was feeling no inspiration or passion to keep going. You’re not going to have passion for everything you have to draw, but if you find yourself becoming bored and disinterested making it, it creeps into the work. I tried to tell my professor I wasn’t getting anywhere and felt like starting over. He told me that, if I only pushed those darks darker, the whole image would pop more. In hindsight I know he was just trying to keep me from making the common student mistake of abandoning a piece before it can really be finished. But at the time my immediate mental response was, “Screw this, I want to draw cartoons.”

I drew a week’s worth of strips with the resolve to submit them to my school paper. I showed up at the first meeting, however, and was told that they already had a cartoonist and didn’t have room for a full comics page. In the interest of full disclosure, it would have been nice to know that the editor telling me this was also the sister of the current cartoonist. I’m not going to cry nepotism here, but turning artists away sight unseen is not how you find the best talent for your publication. Shortly after all this I got an e-mail from Keenspace (Back when it was Keenspace) that the web space I’d registered for in the summer without any real plans for was finally available. So started my journey onto the world wide web. It was a rocky start with peaks and valleys. A week in I accidentally deleted some necessary file and broke the site. Support at the time was practically nonexistent and everyone on the forums I spoke with said I was basically dead in the water until an admin could be bothered to help me. So I moved to a free site until later when I actually bought a domain and hosting.

Why am I telling you all this? To get across that the projects I was working on were my own and for me. This wasn’t for some class and it wasn’t for somebody else. I wanted to make cartoons and I was observing the rigors of running them on a site. Dealing with the daily grind of making updates, struggling to learn how to code an archive, the hassle of trying to grow an audience, realizing you really can’t just dump things somewhere and expect them to get read. These were all lessons I learned because I had the drive already. I was having fun drawing comics so when I had to learn to do something new I took it on.

So when did making art get involved? Eventually this thing I did for fun became more and more important to me. I started to care about it. The comics became bigger than myself in that I wanted to get better at certain skills in order to better serve the story I was telling. For example, I have an aversion to rulers. It’s a bother to dig them out  and who can’t draw a straight line? Then yesterday I saw a panel I drew without one. It’s wobbliness horrified me and I will use rulers more than ever on this project because I’m terrified to see something like that in a final page. When you’re starting out you can have a tendency to say, “That’s good enough,” and toss it aside. There certainly are times when “good enough” needs to be said. In the interests of a hard deadline, for example. Daily goals need to be set or else you can spend forever intending to post an update but never really getting around to it. But maybe, just maybe, instead of spitting out a million horrible comics every day, you worked on producing three a week that were really spectacular. Sometimes it’s ok to redraw something if you can make it better, as long as you don’t let it get in the way of actually putting something out.

I went to two very different art schools. The first one focused on learning history, on painting, on printmaking, on sculpting, on being a gallery artist or an art educator. The other one focused more on the trade itself and being a commercial artist, animator, graphic designer, computer modeler or  game developer. There are pluses and minuses to both. If you’ve ever seen Art School Confidential, you’re probably aware of the posturing that goes on. Nobody goes in thinking they’re going to be that guy who changes majors three times or drops out after two semesters because it’s just not working for them. But we all can’t be Picasso. We all can’t be Walt Disney or Matt Groening. But we can be the guy or gal who drew that funny picture that got passed around all week on Facebook. We can be that page everyone hits on Monday to forget all the crap they have to do this week for a few minutes. We can be what we want to be as long as we’re realistic, serious about it, and put in the effort and the work to accomplish it.

Monday Morning Music Roundup

  • On November 2, 2009 ·
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Alright, lets get this week started off properly. Last week was Halloween but I wasn’t able to post anything. Which means today we start out with Misfits Meet the Nutley Brass: Fiend Club Lounge.

Previously the Nutley Brass covered some tunes by the Ramones. These swingin’ astro-lounge versions of classic Misfits songs are great for a spooky party or every day use. I wish there were more releases like this. And just check out that album art. Speaking of album art, how about some Austrian Death Machine?

This is an album of metal songs based around Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. I know the ArnoCorps were the first to do it, but how can you not love songs like Get to the Choppa? They recently released a new CD, Double Brutal. They also have the single Very Brutal Christmas. And, rounding out the weird music selection of the day, we have Japanese Irish Celtic band The Cherry Coke$.

Cover for The Cherry Coke$ - Sail the Pint

You can check their myspace if you don’t believe me. The video for Bullet for Vapid Beer looks like a fun time. Being an old time fan of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, I find it enjoyable. I hope they tour the states sometime. The last band from Japan I saw live was Thug Murder so it’s been awhile.

Site Resources

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.

On Solid Drawing

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.

Understructure

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)

How to avoid drawing twins

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

Study for a piece by Michelangelo

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

Portrait of Sylvester and Tweety

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.

Influences

  • On October 26, 2009 ·
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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 BooksCan 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.

Dealing with Weekends

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!”  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.

Back in the studio

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.

Musicovery

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. 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.