Best Of Blog, Spring 2008

What follows is a selection of fragments taken from my rants over the last year on http://www.sunelves.com, consolidated for your reading pleasure.

Feb 3, ’08:

If I don’t know where my plot is going I will fall behind and the comic will die.

Feb 10, ’08:

I have a large comic buffer. I need it there so I can make sure my rewriting goes smoothly and I can fiddle around with the art if it needs it.

Feb 17.’08:

“Cartooning” is something I’ve never been good at. You may notice that my characters don’t tend to have exaggerated features. If I try to make them cartoony, they always look wrong to me, even though I’m perfectly capable of appreciating other people’s cartoons. I’ve thought about this a lot recently, and it seems like my brain and all of my fine arts training have been focused on seeing, and cartooning requires a certain quality of not-seeing that I find very difficult.

I’ve worked very hard and studied a lot of other people’s work to get the simplicity and clean lines that I do have in my work. I’ve mainly tried to acquire the style of manga; it’s simpler for me because it’s more consistent in what it exaggerates than American cartoons tend to be. My first comic was in a more Japanese style, but sometimes it doesn’t work very well for me; mainly, though, it doesn’t seem to fit the story of LleuGarnock. But the quality of line that the Japanese can produce inspires me, and a lot of the shortcuts I use in simplifying my own figures, I learned from manga.

Feb 24, ’08:

I have a lot of practice drawing individual pictures, but to have several people on the same page, doing different things, remaining the same size relative to each other and their belongings…well, this is still practice.

That’s actually one thing that’s always intimidated me about the webcomic format – that your talent level can change so much over the course of a story, and there isn’t as much chance to go back and apply what you’ve learned as there is in, say, an illustrated book. Also, I rarely write anything in order, so I always like to have the option to go back and add or change things. So the idea that these first few pages are the beginning of a much larger whole seems very weird to me. Because the project isn’t finished, everything should still be fluid and able to be changed. This all still feels like just practice, even when I say to myself, “This page is ready.”

But it’s not perfect yet!

Feb 28, ’08:

A lot of more serious story comics have pages with not much value on their own. I’m trying to avoid this. In every script I try to provide information about the world, move forward in the plot, and entertain. Mostly this has been through humor. I don’t know how long I can keep it up, since I have not really done humor before, and the plot isn’t inherently funny. In fact it’s rather dark. But I’ve kept it up longer than I expected already, so here’s hoping!

March 3, ’08:

I have a problem, because I am a perfectionist with a short attention span. My biggest projects have a wide range of sorts of things to be interested so that I can always convince myself to be interested in part of it.

March 10, ’08:

I was having trouble with a couple of the scripts. I really appreciate my buffer at times like this. It’s a scenario with some of the “school-age” kids with a lot of misunderstanding and hurt feelings. I was pretty oblivious during that phase of my life (currently the first two-thirds) – I was always the one who was shy, oversensitive about things and didn’t know the meaning of the phrase “just teasing”. I realized that the plot necessitates that the story be told from the perspective of the loud kid who finds that being funny gets him farthest with most people and doesn’t get that more of the same won’t win over everyone. Writing this section has been a learning experience for me and I hope it will improve my writing. I’m still kind of frustrated with the way it’s turning out, but that’s mostly because it’s not the kind of story that will make you laugh out loud on every page, and that’s the way it was meant to be.

March 17, ’08:

When I started this comic I never expected to have to work at it. (this is mostly untrue.) However, this story which I love has a beginning, middle and end, and I am determined to reach that end.The fact that I am actually working at it rather than setting it aside for a while (as I could) is encouraging. I do put down projects and come back to them later, but I really am committed to staying with this story and drawing it on a regular basis while I can do so and remain sane.

March 20, ’08:

I thought I’d talk a bit about the steps I use to make a comic. Many details of this will make more professional artists cringe. But a lot of it has to do with not spending money on a hobby until the hobby has shown a return. This has proven to be a good policy for me, since there are so many expensive hobbies I’m interested in: photography, ceramics, painting, quilting, jewelry making, the construction of cosplay costumes (I would really like to dress as Temari of the Sand from Naruto but I have tried and failed to make an accurately enormous fan).

These are my current techniques: I have no drawing table or desk. I take a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock, put it on a clipboard and sketch in the panels with a dull #2 writing pencil. This includes word bubbles; they are always part of the whole composition for me. Then I use a mechanical pencil to refine the sketches if needed. Then I ink everything with a felt-tip pen and a fineliner (this has changed several times). Then I take my fat pink eraser and create the smell of burning rubber. This stage is the reason I stuck with cardstock after I first tried it, even though some of my pens bleed horribly on it.

I scan this as a “black and white document,” then open it in MS Paint and save it as a monochrome bitmap, then back to 24-bit color. This produces a wonderful point-and-click coloring book effect which is very fast, the reason I use MS Paint for my first layer of color. I know I could use the Threshold tool in the GIMP to create the same file, but the “color eraser” tool in Paint is the simple yet unique thing that makes it so much faster. The “color eraser” function in the GIMP is totally different and probably quite useful for some people. But I can set Paint to paint over only the pure white pixels with any color I want, which fills in any holes that destroy my point-and-click coloring page.

Then comes the second layer of color, in the GIMP. Interesting fact: I do all my drawing with my left hand. I do not own a tablet. I can only control a mouse comfortably with my right hand. So all coloring effects are done with my non-dominant hand. And the bottom of my mouse is sticky. (I just noticed this.) I am nearly ambidextrous, but it still takes a toll on the art.

March 24, ’08:

The fun of making the comic has stayed pretty stable, but the effort I put into making it feels like it’s going up. Based on my track record I’m really afraid that if I stop being excited/obsessed with the story for too long I’ll never get back to that point, so I’m going to try to push myself back into regular comics.

March 31, ’08:

When I decided to make The Sun Elves into a webcomic, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to try to make it funny or not. There are a couple of reasons I decided to give it a try. One is that I thought it would get people involved in the story; even if I didn’t manage to maintain the humor, people might be involved in the story enough to continue. Another is that I just wasn’t sure where to start; the original book has very little opening scene before it starts into flashbacks and explanations, and that wasn’t right for a comic. I had to think of something new and entertaining.

The biggest benefit I’ve noticed, though, is that it really is easier to tell a deep, interesting story when I focus on the funny little moments in the characters’ lives. I know the characters so much better than I once did. They’re much more real to me. And I have gotten so many more ideas about things that might happen, complexities and subplots. This is going to be a much more interesting story than the original.

April 3, ’08:

I don’t know if I really know how to write kids. I wasn’t very social in my early years, and I don’t have very clear memories of them. I don’t spend much time with kids either. Olwynne is almost ten. I don’t have any specific things that I do to write her as her age, I just try to write her as herself.

April 7, ’08

There are a lot of things that need to be considered when writing for a comic, a lot of which don’t need to be addressed when writing a book. I decided to give Gemini magical sparks as an indicator for when she is changing the appearance of one of her illusions. This makes sense in everyday situations, because while she is creating or releasing an illusion, light escapes her control in random patterns unless she pays strict attention. Very few other elven talents produce sparkly lights. There may be a time when she is controlling the changes more tightly, and I will have to make it clear in other ways that she has used magic.

On the other hand, I won’t always be able to make things so visually authentic; some pieces of the story require knowledge of what an invisible person is doing. I will probably have to figure out a way of drawing invisible people.

April 9, ’08

Right now I feel like I’m crawling along with my work, but it’s not really true. I feel like I’m being lazy because for the past couple of days I haven’t done any drawing. I sit and stare at the pages for the next few scripts and occasionally jot something down. I’ve also been thinking about the plot long-term. And this stuff really does have to be done.

I’m quite aware of the need for this kind of preparation work at the moment, because on Saturday I drew a very ill-thought-out comic and had to fix it. The problem is, I bring my drawing supplies to D&D on Saturdays, but this past week I didn’t have a completed script to draw, so I ended up finishing the script, laying it out, sketching and inking all while fighting undead with magic sling stones. Sure, little Ferdinand the rogue was cowering for five rounds, but by then the damage to the script had already been done. I learned my lesson – D&D isn’t nearly as good for writing background noise as This Old House.

It’s a balancing act between each update standing alone, and each working to tell the larger story. The comic I drew Saturday, I knew what needed to happen and what information revealed, but what I ended up making was simply a bad comic. On the other hand, this past Monday’s update was quite entertaining, but I didn’t think it through well enough, and it doesn’t flow as well into today’s comic and the following events as I’d like.

So right now I’m making sure to take the time I need and do the best I can for the comic in both the short- and long-term. When the story intensity dials down a bit my speed will increase.

April 13, ’08

I’m doing more long-term work to distract myself while my brain fits things together – I’m redesigning some characters that won’t appear for a long time yet, and reading some Sandman comics. Sandman – now there’s a comic where the theme of storytelling works. Where just about any quirky device or startling imagery can be made to work. But it absolutely can’t be read page by page; it must be read in larger units. I think in general I am better at long-term stories. I’ve recognized this for a long time. I know I’m better with a more serious plot and a smooth, slow pace. So I keep coming back to this question of why am I trying for humor?

Because in order to provide motivation for a project, a regular schedule to keep up with is very useful. If such a schedule is private, it doesn’t mean anything. I need an audience that has an expectation of the timeliness and quality of my work. This is mostly in my imagination at this point, but because I know it’s possible that there are a lot of people out there waiting for my next page to go up, I can sit and bang my head against the writer’s block for hours. Sometimes chips come off and I can work with them. These times seem longer than the times when I am actually excited and inspired, but the fun times fly by and leave pages of evidence behind them.

So I think of those imaginary people each time I draw a page, and I want that page to be worth something. A lot of the time humor is the way to make that happen. Sometimes it isn’t. And a lot of the time I know that the pace that this style leads the story to go, reading it week to week will make people crazy. But the more I read through my work, the more I realize that when it’s all done and put together in a book, the pace will be almost perfect – maybe a little fast, even – and the humor adds a lot more to the story as a whole than it takes away.

I apologize to my eagerly awaiting audience, no matter how big or how small or how imaginary. I’ve been using you to keep myself going every day, and yet not making your everyday enjoyment a priority. That’s not going to change, but the way I figure it, the longer I keep using you as motivation, the more each new reader will get out of the accumulated material, the real story the way it was meant to be read. And I guess that’s how most webcomics work, really.

I just worry about it a lot more than most of us.

April 21, ’08

As I’m putting pictures into the gallery, and as I try to create salable merchandise, it occurs to me that my character designs and plot are far from ideal for such things. Some comics have very decorative characters who take a long time to draw, but just a drawing of that character standing there can have enough power and complexity to, say, make people want to wear a t-shirt with that image on it. Some comics have characters who are very simply and quickly drawn, but who do interesting, dynamic things on a regular basis. They can be drawn fighting or holding weapons, or flying, or whatever it is they do.

My characters are designed for repeatability; they haven’t developed their skills for combat or even held a weapon, at least the current main characters. Gemini could show off her talents in a dramatic way, but it would be difficult to portray them in a way that doesn’t need verbal explanation; besides, she isn’t the one who likes to show off, Syblai is.

April 24, ’08

It has been suggested to me recently that my comics should perhaps have a more artistic quality to them.This seems an opportune moment to discuss that.

I cannot fault that critic, for, even disregarding the past few comics and their particular lack, she has seen what I can do and the comic does not represent my best work, at least in a strictly “artistic” view. And for many, the medium of paint is so associated with the concept of fine art that they are, to some extent, subconsciously inseparable.

I can paint, in my own way; I’ve been trained in the classically western style, which focuses on texture, shape, volume, light and shadows, and color. I can paint objects that stand still, landscapes, spoons and things. The way that I can paint does not lend itself to the comic form. A western oil painting takes hours and hours, usually days, especially if you want to portray any kind of facial expression with any kind of subtlety. My trees in the gallery, watercolor-on-black, are a shortcut and take a bit less time. However, my attempt to portray people in this medium was laughable. In the end, I redrew them in my usual way and pasted them over the painted background.

This doesn’t mean at all that I have given up striving to add more subtlety to my art within the comic. But I am walking a line between presenting a consistent product, and the experimentation which stretches my abilities. I have done a great deal of experimenting, and I have come to the conclusion that many comic artists have come to – my backgrounds must be drawn as part of the composition in order for the characters to look like they belong, and the best way to add color to the resulting framework is digitally.

Some people dispute the artistic integrity of digital work; I’m not going to talk about that now. Some people do manage to produce hand-painted color comics within a reasonable schedule. I will talk about how they are different from me, and how I am lessening that gap within (and utilizing) the limitation that the comic form places on me.

Artists who work with faster methods of painting have a confidence in their own ability to paint a line that will be right the first time they run the brush over it. This is an eastern artistic sensibility. Paintings from China and Japan are proudly made up of lines that are elegant on their own, and then somehow come together to make something both recognizable and more elegant than the original object.

I’ve been working for a long time to develop my confidence in lines. I’ve talked before about my transition from ballpoint pens, which I used as a sketching medium, to a felt-tip pen. There is plenty of evidence in the first few comics of just how awkward that was for me. Recently I bought my first brush-pen, which is like an ink brush with training wheels. Working with the brush-pen is a whole new jump. Because pressure controls the width of the line to a much greater extent than with the felt-tip pen, I am much more aware of the pressure I am applying; and because I do apply so little pressure when drawing a thin line, every little wiggle of my hand shows up; the pen isn’t steadied by the paper. I have to learn confidence, so my hand doesn’t shake; and I can teach myself even more fine control.

This isn’t the only barrier separating me from beautiful, artistic comic pages. One thing I know I need to learn a feel for is composition, not only of the page but of the panel. I’ve been taught about composition in art classes, and though I understood the concepts in a factual way, I couldn’t feel the effect they had on a piece of art. I still can’t; most of the rules of composition don’t seem to help me. I can’t remember them or figure out how to apply them. When I was in art classes, or just drew things for fun, I was hardly ever aware of composition. I simply loved the objects in the pictures, and while I love color and have always been fascinated by texture, I’m coming to realize more often than not that it was the lines that I really saw and was drawn to.

What it really comes down to is the fact that artistically, I use the comic as a reason to work on the things that I am bad at or don’t know how to do at all. I’ve composed hundreds of panels now, and I still can’t pull a line with my pen without sketching it six times first, and I still don’t know how to apply the rules of composition, but you know, I’m pretty sure I’m getting better at it.

I could just do what I’m already good at, but I really have no interest in painting dead, decomposed landscapes and random bowls of fruit. I want to tell a story, and I’m just trying to figure out the best way to do that. It’s all practice, but as an artist I’m sure I’ll spend my whole life practicing. So I thought I might as well show everyone what I’m up to.

April 29, ’08

My current thoughts are about writing Syb – it’s difficult because for most of my life I’ve tried to avoid unpleasant teenage males and ignore their behavior, and managed it better than most. I don’t feel like I have a handle on his character, and that’s behind a lot of the frustration I’ve been having with the script. But it’s getting better.

May 5, ’08

As usual, the scripts are being troublesome while my drawing continues to improve. I feel redundant saying it, but that’s what’s on my mind. The thing is, my own standards for myself go up constantly in both areas. In terms of drawing, though, the tasks have been similar throughout – I’ve focused on facial expressions, because they’re the most important thing in expressing the ideas I want to incorporate. So it’s pretty easy to look at one drawing and then another and say “I’ve improved since then.” There are a lot of comparable images.

The thing about scripts is each one of them is different. Each one of them is trying to communicate something new. It’s easier for me to tell how well my pictures brought out the message of the script, than whether the script expressed what it needed to in the story. There’s still so much I don’t know about the story, and the only way for me to learn those things is to write the story. <br /><br />

I can see flaws in the earlier scripts that I think I am learning to overcome, but in the minutes when I sit down and try to fish out pieces of the next script that fit together, that experience gained isn’t what matters. What matters is that that script comes with a number of problems and questions that need to be answered. Should I rush directly to the next thing I’ve decided on? Do I know how to do that in one page in an entertaining way? How would this character arrive at that subject in a conversation? Is there some interesting side topic I could touch on?

The more I learn how to write scripts, the more careful I want to be writing each one; and the farther I get into the story, the more variables I have to take into account. It’s not like the art, where after drawing a character’s face 100 times it only takes a few quick lines to recreate it. A personality is far more complex; the words a character says cannot be burned into the memory the way lines can. They have to be new each time. I have a feeling that once I’ve learned the broader strokes of my main characters’ personalities, it will become easier to write for them as it has become easier to draw them. But by then I will have encountered the really difficult pieces of the plot. The larger picture, the plot, will take years to develop.

I knew I liked rewriting and adding to my work, but it has definitely been more fun than I expected to put so much more into this story the second (or third) time around. Events that I imagined running five or six pages now run ten or twenty, and are immensely more nuanced and more fun. I keep working hard at the scripts every day, and as much as it frustrates me that there’s always something I need to know soon and haven’t figured out yet, in general the process has been amazingly fun. I was surprised to realize today that it’s not, as I thought, an alternation between frustration and fun, but a continually fun process. I enjoy having a problem to mull over and untangle. I think I felt this way from the beginning, but I was so anxious then at every moment that I would stop and never get started again. Every time I got stuck I was afraid it might be the beginning of the end. I’ve relaxed a bit now into a steady pace, and even though it’s still just the beginning, I’ve developed a sense that this is what I do, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. That’s a really good feeling.

Wow, it really is just the beginning. At this point it is completely impossible for me to even imagine the possible scope of what I’ve set out to do. I’m working the script for page 60 of the comic and I haven’t even completed the events from the third page of type in the original book. The second draft I created was much longer and more detailed, but nothing even approaching the comic. There just keeps being more I want to add. This is good news for those who want a long-running comic and a deeply detailed story, but bad news for those who are dying to learn what happens. I just write what I’m inspired to.

Every opportunity I get, I like to add references to the little differences between life in LleuGarnock and life here on Earth. In stories I’ve written in the past, I’ve been intimidated by the task of creating a consistent and interesting culture. What works in LleuGarnock is that it’s a small community, so I can start with the interactions between a few people. I also used a place I’m familiar with here on Earth as inspiration, a camp in the woods where families come to find spiritual respite. When I have a question about how a particular thing is done by the elves of LleuGarnock I go back to my memories of that place to see what fits. It’s only a temporary place, though, shut down every winter, but I think that comes across well in the comic because the elves retreated to LleuGarnock as a respite from war, and they didn’t intend to stay isolated there forever. It’s a kind of in-between place.

May 12, ’08

I’ve gotten a few comments now, and most of them have been about my art – specifically how little detail there is in my drawing. I definitely agree there is a certain lack in that area. However, some of that is intentional – I set out to design characters that would be easy to draw over and over again. Some of it comes from my working process and materials. My scanner isn’t huge, and I don’t have a tablet, so my inking gets done on an 8×11 sheet. From experience I know it takes me a lot longer to get a good layout if I draw and scan the panels separately. I have some fairly fine pens, but there’s only so much I can do with them.

Those are trivial reasons. One of the more important reasons is tied to my reasons for doing this project. I write because I love to write. I love the process and I think I’m good at it. I draw because … well … I can draw pretty well. My stories need illustrating, and if someone else drew my characters, I’d be bullying them terribly about all the things that weren’t right until I’d end up drawing them myself anyway. And I really do want to get better at drawing, because I know the talent’s in here somewhere. I draw The Elves of LleuGarnock because I really think my pictures are the best way of getting my message across, even if they are somewhat primitive.

Another reason for the simple style of my drawings is, of course, my level of talent and the way I percieve the world. The best way to illustrate this might be a little story: I was sitting and drawing in some public place, perhaps college campus. I might have been drawing a dragon or a fairy or somesuch. Someone came and looked over my shoulder and commented:

“You’re a really good copier.”

In my own literal way I replied approximately: “Thanks, I am, but this isn’t copied from anything.”

They returned: “No, I mean you can copy what’s in your head onto paper.”

“There’s nothing like this in my head. I don’t know what a picture is going to look like until I start drawing it. Then I just add and adjust bits until it looks good.”

The problem with me and drawing comics is that I don’t know what to make the pictures look like. I have tons and tons of art-reference and art-tutorial books that I look at, and I can copy pictures out of them almost flawlessly. But then when I go to draw my own characters and scenes, very little of that stays with me – except in the larger generalities. I notice this especially when I try to use books done in more realistic and/or detailed styles – my anatomy references, costume references, how-to-draw-crime-noir books, Batman comics.

I just don’t have a picture in my head of how Gemi’s nose looks from such-and-such an angle, or how light falls on the curve of one face as opposed to another. When I draw a character, I do it very formulaically, because otherwise I would have no idea where to start.

My ability to draw seems to be based on a structure something like Plato’s Theory of Forms. The more specific examples of a particular object I see, the more solid the idea of what it looks like becomes in my head – but I never remember how that specific example looked. It only contributes to the whole.

When I draw a person I try to put that general idea of “personhood” on the page before anything else. This step combines with arranging their body position as the scene necessitates. If there isn’t anything specific these two steps may only produce a rough egg shape hanging in the panel. Then I add the formula for that character – the ears, the shape of the hair – and the formula for the expression the character might be wearing – the eyebrow slant, the mouth shape. Then I look at it and ask myself, “What is wrong here? What could be improved?” And I modify the image. If I were asked to put in more detail, I just wouldn’t know where.

I guess I just have to add to my vague ideas of form, and specifically line, by looking at more comics. Time for some serious research.

May 22, ’08

I love internal architecture and design, and I’d like to put more of it into the comic, but it’s difficult. When I lay out a page I tend to think first of the character’s face, and when I’m done that I realize I’ve drawn them at an angle where you can’t see any of the interesting architectural details. I’ve been trying to work on this, but it’s working against me that I really think the characters’ faces are the most important things to show. I guess it’s partly because I find the architecture interesting, but I usually don’t think of a way to make it interesting to my audience as I percieve them. It might also be because I know my way around the details of modern houses and the features of a Medieval fortification or cathedral, but I didn’t want the elves’ dwellings to look like either of those, so I am somewhat at a loss. I’m trying to create a culture that values simplicity, also. Even so, I could be doing more.

I’m not really worried that I haven’t been scripting or drawing comics. I mean I’m a little worried, but I’m always worried, even when I’m actually working. I’m finished September now, so a two-week vacation doesn’t seem indulgent, and whenever I sit down in my corner with all the papers, or at the computer, I check to see if I know what to do next – or if I’m as stuck as I am now, whether I’m detatched and fresh enough yet to go back over my notes for the next few scripts with new eyes.

May 26, ’08

I want to get into the exciting bits of the plot that come later, but I keep thinking of things that happen in between things. I’ve accidentally gotten into a structure of thinking I have to account for time, and so I wonder what happens in the next moment instead of what happens next that’s interesting. It’s also due to the fact that I just feel the need to put in some kind of indication of how much time has passed since the last comic, and the easiest way to do that is to have it happen immediately afterwards. However, this has resulted in a feeling of oddly compressed days. I need to figure out how to indicate time in other ways, or just stop worrying about it.

May 29, ’08

I’ve been inking this one page over the past couple of days, and it’s been sort of a piecemeal operation. A couple of pages back, I wrestled through a page with my brush-pen and decided that in learning how to use it, I had utterly killed it. Thankfully the next page had a lot of detail and going back to my fineliner wasn’t too much of a stretch. The page after that I did in my old combination of thick and thin pens, but I started to really miss my brush pen. (Yes, I’ve been very productive this week. Good for me.) The page I’m working on now, I started with some of the lettering in my fineliner and then inked one face, then stopped.

Last night I finally got to go to Michael’s and buy a new brush pen. I also bought a set of liners that they didn’t have last time I was there. I was really interested in the .1mm for fine details, but didn’t mind buying the other three sizes in the set to try out. After I got home and to work again I decided to switch to the .3mm liner for lettering and the .7mm for panel borders instead of my felt tip, but that the .5mm probably wouldn’t get that much use. So I took it out of the package and put my brush pen in instead. Now all my favorite pens are together!

I also saw the french curves in the store and it reminded me I had a couple up in the closet, so when I got home I got them out and started using them for my speech bubbles.

This all probably doesn’t mean much to most of my readers, since none of my work with the brush pen has gone up. The brush pen is a little bit messier than the style you’re seeing now, but I think it has more life. Also, someone on the CG forums was saying how they miss the “handmade” look of my earlier comics. I was pretty messy with my pens then, and I think the brush pen brings back some of that quality, but it’s still a better medium. I don’t know if that makes sense.

June 5, ’08

I colored things. They’re pretty. I think all my self-questioning and worrying that my coloring wasn’t worthwhile was an advantage when I actually sat down to color. I wasn’t just on autopilot, I was thinking of the ideal coloring job for each page. I didn’t maintain enthusiasm until my ideal had been achieved, but it was still better than average.

June 19, ’08

Right now I’m having the unique experience of actually feeling unrushed in terms of working on my comic. It’s probably hard for people to imagine feeling rushed when there is a more than 30-update buffer waiting to go up, but I have been pushing myself pretty hard to get to that point. In the first, say, three and a half months of working on the comic I was only happy if I did at least some work everyday, and a few days I would hurry to get the second page of the day drawn and start on a third.

It sounds a bit odd to say it now, but I did that to myself so I wouldn’t feel rushed. A better way to explain it might be to say that I wanted to feel rushed on my own terms; I like to fit a lot of work into one session while I remain inspired, and when I’m not inspired I like to be able to step back and take a breath, maybe get something else done that requires a chunk of my attention. But still, cramming as much as I could into those times resulted in some pretty lazy-looking comics.

The last few pages I’ve done have included some pretty awesome art. I’m getting better with my tools, both pens and GIMP brushes. I especially notice the difference using my new brush pen, which is holding up better than the first; I generally have a very heavy hand with pens. I’m learning to have a very light touch. I’m learning to appropriately work my old decorative arts (translation: the kinds of doodles I used to do before both my fairy and Manga phases) into the panels with my characters. I never really did both at once before. I’m learning to create all sorts of different digital texture effects for the more simply inked backgrounds.

There are areas that need work; my characters, especially males, are still stiff. My interior backgrounds are improving more slowly than I’d like. But overall I’m very happy right now because I just spent several leisurely hours putting some wonderful detail into the background of one panel. Of course, now that it’s done, I realize that same background will figure prominently in the next few pages; but that will force me not only to continue my leisurely pace and practice my detail work, but also to consider angles for viewing the scene I might not have otherwise done.

I’m still afraid that if I don’t hurry up and draw comics while I’m inspired to, I’ll fall out of interest in my story for too long and run out of buffer and become intimidated. But I’ve decided not to worry about it too much until my buffer drops to one month instead of three and a half. Because the material when I’m concentrating on my inspiration rather than my hurry is just too pretty to miss right now.

The story continues to stretch itself out and gain detail. If I can keep it up it’s going to be around for years and years. That just keeps being amazing to me. I amaze myself.

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