Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cameo rundown

Edit: New site upgrades means no more hotlinking, so this post was all broken images! You now have to click on the links to see the comic pages. Sorry!

For the city arc, now in its final stages, I decided to indulge my readers and friends and offer cameo spots for strips where background characters are needed. It made all that extra drawing fun! Here is a list of which characters were cameos and who was behind them.

Strip #786
The gray fox in panel one of this strip was by the request of reader Iron Ed.

Strip #787
Reader Roland requested a Eurasian Wolf. I put the gender up for a vote on the forum and the female security guard won.

Strip #791
The yellow dingo is a character belonging to reader Al S. Romero. My webcomicker friend Irene Pitcairn asked to be drawn as a calico cat in a strip, and I was happy to oblige!

Strip #790
The lynx was reader Cyfrostan's request. The husky was inspired by reader InsanityKangaroo. Reader mrgameandpie requested a Welsh Corgi. Finally, Roland gets another show with his suggestion of adding some labs.

Strip #793
I then turned to twitter for my museum curator cameos. The first two replies came from @psychocatboy (the cat) and @comicalpanda (the fox).

Strip #794
More Twitter cameos! The kitty in panel one was inspired by @kendrakirai, while the one in panel three is little miss @drillecat.

Strip #795
On the wall of bans, you will see Ruby from Code Name: Hunter and Blue from Namir Deiter. The colorful kitties in panel two are readers Cookie (blue one) and PurpleCat (purple one, duh).

Strip #797
Our poor crewman here comes from the Twitter volunteers, @granite_grizz. Yorkshire Terrier was actually his 4th preference of species, but I hope he likes it anyway.

Strip #798
And we get to today's strip. The fox is reader @codefox. The bobcat mix comes from reader Adrik the Bat. The two ladies on the right are Sheana (yellow) and Celina (white) from The Cyantian Chronicles.

There's one more cameo coming up in the arc (Strip #802), from reader @JaxTracRat, but I didn't want to wait until his appearance on Saturday to publish this post!

If you want to get in on the reader cameo action, do know that a few more will be coming up in the next few weeks. Watch the forum thread or my Twitter account for when I open up for those requests.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moving along with commissions

A few days have gone by since an update, so let's play catch-up! I'm trying not to fill this blog with "I'm working on comics!" posts, because... duh, I run a daily. I'm ALWAYS working on comics.

The downside, of course, is there's only one me and that means some days I really am only making comics. I must fix that, as commissions are building up again. (I guess my newly-adopted daily nap time could be spent doing more productive things.)

Anyway, enjoy a pic of my current projects. I'm still tweaking the painting, cursing the lack of opaqueness in my paints. On top of that, you might be able to make out a pair of Tiffany drawings, which is for another commission. On the light table, we have the early stage of the big watercolor project, in which I have to trace and color a double-sized strip.

I'm still working on finding a good comic/commission balance. While these projects sat for a few days, I did manage to knock out the rest of this city arc! Now I have to get my scripting hat on again - and not forget about the commission hat this time!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Muffins... of DOOM! - Now in color!

I did it! I watercolored without screwing up terribly! I'm not sure my stroke quality is any good, and I can't stay in the lines to save my life - but those things are forgivable in watercolors, no? I declare victory anyway!

Watercolors are scary things, man, as one mistake could result in the entire piece getting scrapped. And I came close to that. As with all damning mistakes, this one came when I was 99% done with the piece. Everything was painting except for the "o" in "of", and that's when I decided to touch a spot in "doom." One hand slip later, I had a brown smudge across the "do." Fortunately, I was able to blot the paint enough to make it negligible.

Wish I could provide a better pic for you, but scanning faint colors seems to be the impossible task. I went to my good scanner, and everything light still came out as a pale cyan. Which really made Tiffany look weird.

Anyway, the next step in watercoloring is to double down on the difficulty and take on a new commission. Wish me luck, as this one will be a doozy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Muffins... of DOOM!

I don't think watercolor test pieces are supposed to be this big (11"x17") or elaborate, but HERE WE GO! If I can pull this piece off, that means I can start taking commissions on watercolor pieces! Yay!

Friday, May 20, 2011

More background characters!

As I continue to script strips that require background characters, I continue to indulge readers by letting them take part in the process. Presenting: The latest sketches of proposed background characters!

This was a request for a fox, using a source pic of the reader running. I tried to match this guy's markings to the fox in his avatar. While he wore glasses in the pic, I think I prefer the sketch without them for the final version.

Since I ended up with so many fox requests, this poor soul ended up drawing the short straw and had to alter his proposal. A Yorkshire terrier was his fourth choice, but I hope it looks good enough to please him anyway. In this case, my favorite sketch includes the glasses.

I had a request for a calico cat, and those are always fun! Alongside our darling calico is a quick refresher sketch of Shane the dingo, a reader's character I've drawn before on this blog.

Turns out Siberian huskies lose a lot of impact when drawn with the gigantic eyes of the Precocious style, but I tried my best. (Unfortunately for this fan, my struggle also meant a less-than-prominent placement in Monday's strip.)

This one was inspired by a good, old-fashioned cat girl pic. I like the results.

The character behind this one is a robotic kitty with a drill for one of her arms. I had to strip that off, but I wanted to hint at the drill theme at least.

I put out the call on Twitter for volunteers to have their characters in the role of museum curators, and here's one of the luck winners. I'd say he's *another* red fox request, but his was actually the first of those to come in - and his has distinct coloring to work with - so this one wins.

Here's the other curator, a potentially unstable kitty!

Finally, this one wasn't actually a request. When I asked the eventual-terrier to choose something else, I offered to switch breeds of fox to gray or arctic first. He didn't go that route, but it did lead to me doing an image search anyway - and I found the CUTEST arctic fox pic ever! I just HAD to try Precocizing her! I dunno if she'll make it to a strip, but it was a fun experiment.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fighting with the paint demons

When I first thought of today's comic, I immediately went on Twitter and announced I had an idea that was completely unusable due to the effort involved. And then I somehow tried to do it anyway. I'm not sure if that was the best idea.

My inspiration for this strip was to have the characters find themselves depicted as demons in a painting reminiscent of the hell portion of "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch. The catch was, in order for the gag to work, the final panel had to really look like a painting of that style. That meant figuring out the most time-effective way of pulling off something that could pass as a detail of an oil painting.

The first attempt was a 12x12" canvas with acrylic paints. I didn't get far in before I realized the layers of paint needed meant a lot more time going into it than expected - and that I lack the tiny brushes (and skill for detail) to pull this off. Rather than give up, I switched methods. This time I whipped out my watercolor pencils and drew a version of the scene I wanted. It wasn't looking great, but I thought I could fix it - so I brought out the REAL watercolors next and started dumping more layers on it. Eventually, I worried the piece was getting muddy, so I went in and used a black tech pen to sharpen some edges. The result was the piece you see above.

At this point, I was committed. I had put most of one day's work into one panel of one strip for a gag that iffy at best - but I was not about to throw it all away! The brush stroke effect wasn't really there, the composition was too hokey and the background colors weren't deep enough. To fix that, I turned to Photoshop. Right away, I suffered the consequences of leaving the entire piece too light, as every little tweak drained the lighter details away. I tried a few filters to make it look more painting-like, but got mediocre results. The final version ended up with me throwing the watercolor filter in over my original watercolors and adding some shadows. I'm not sure how effective the result is for the final strip, but it's all I could do with the piece I created.

Maybe I should have gone with a throwaway gag about the gallery coffee shop instead...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The past few days have been full of upheaval in regards to Precocious' direction. After a lot of thinking, I've decided to scrap a full month's worth of scripts - and that scares me! It wasn't that the scripts were bad - I quite liked them - but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was best to move in a new direction.

As planned, the current Uncle Mike saga was supposed to break into three parts. What I've done is excise part three, choosing to jump straight to the conclusion. This means a few big losses for me. Gone are the running gags of Jacob's V encyclopedia and Mike giving the kids coffee. Gone is a twist I had planned to set up over a few weeks. The big casualty of the change, however, is poor Sydney. Since she spends half of her time in the city, managing her apartment buildings and doing general businesswoman hobnobbing, this was my opportunity to drop in on her and show how she lives when away from family.

But here's the thing: Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Bringing Sydney in would mean extending the city trip for dozens of strips - which is risky for a story that's already running long. Looking over the scripts, while I was having fun with her, it was clear Sydney's involvement ended up having zero impact on the story as a whole. No events depended on her triggering them, and she actually delayed some payoffs if I think about it that way. She's simply a fun character to write for and I wanted to use her.

My preferred method of writing is to set up a scenario and sit on it, letting its potential play out. This can easily lead to a "too much of a good thing" effect. I may write 20 good gags about the kids and Mike in a museum, but running them all risks joke fatigue. There's also the problem of pacing, should I devote a strip to every little silly detail just because I though I was clever for thinking of it. It's my nature to really be indulgent and revel in my stories, but this time I felt editing was the best option - especially considering all the indulgence I'd already placed in this story!

Now the questions is... what will fill that gap? I've had a story, set during summer break, that I could do. The timing would be right for it, and it will eventually rotate a few characters back into the spotlight. The downside to that direction is that I'll be subjecting the readers a long, drawn-out story again without giving them a gag-a-day break to cool off.

A second idea to fill the space is to create a series of one to two week vignettes that focus on some of the supporting cast, and ride those short stories through the summer. Those might be easier on the readers, but I'm not as prepared on my end to run them. At this point, I only have one solid vignette idea. There's also the problem of this idea bumping the summer story mentioned above to next year. (Which might not be a bad thing, in regards to long-term pacing.)

Clearly, I have to whip out my giant Word file of ideas and get some inspiration going again. The end of the Mike stories will come sooner than expected, and I must be prepared to move on!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Background characters, by request!

As hinted at in an earlier post, I asked readers in my forum to help design some background characters for Precocious' current big city arc. Now, the nature of background characters means they are, uh, in the background - which, due to perspective and whatnot, means they appear rather small. If I'm going through the trouble of creating this things for the readers, it benefits both parties to have something to show for it that doesn't end up 10 pixels high in the final product, so do enjoy these character sketches I made!

The next character that is needed for drawing the strip is a security guard. After reviewing the requests I had, it seemed obvious to give the Eurasian wolf request the job. I have two versions for you, the public, to choose from. Male or female?

Next up, we a Precocized version of a reader's former pet, a bobcat mix - wearing camouflage because he's a born hunter - and a less-threatening-but-still-lovable stubby corgi!

Two users wanted to use their avatars, which both happened to be unusually-colored felines (not that you can tell in pencil), so it made sense to make them a couple. (They are funly colored because they are crazy art students who dyed themselves. That work?)

Finally, I got a request for a lynx wearing something black, like a hoodie. Since I only had one background female (maybe two, if chick guard get public support), and this reader didn't specify, I decided to go lady lynx. The black suggestion made me think goth. That was the plan, at least. I started out by making the eyes a little flirty by accident, and then it all snowballed. My goth lynx in black became... kinda sexy lynx in white? Whatever, I kinda like it. (I'd like it more if my final attempt a tweaking hadn't derped her eyes up, but I'll live.)

Aside from the guard, who is popping up on Friday, I don't know where and how (or if?) these characters will pop up in the strip, but they are ready to go for when the time times! I'm still taking requests, so chime in if you want to design a petting zoo person and I'll do my best to accommodate!

(Note: Unfortunately for the first guy to make a request, I came up with this idea *after* his choice had been incorporated into a comic. But, hey, he got to be a foreground character in that one, so he get his time to shine!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

(Re-post) The Sycophant - growing the brand?

(Blogger's recent meltdown not only meant I couldn't post new updates - it also managed to eat one of my posts! For completion's sake, I'm posting it here again. My apologies to Facebook users who will likely get spammed with this repeat. Also, watch me look like a fool when the original post is magically restored down the line.)

So I just registered thesycophant.com. Suddenly the title of my blog means so much more! You know what this also means? I HAVE TO JUSTIFY MY PURCHASE! If I'm buying a domain like this, I'd better put it to good use. Cartooning side project? Oh, imagine the possibilities...

I've long since claimed my next project will be The Haters Club, a name which began as in-joke in my old social circle. I love that title. It's fun. It sets the tone for my humor right away. It's... common enough to be used by a few websites.

Well, then, I just registered a viable alternative... which is *also* based on an in-joke from that blissful time of my life. The Sycophant may not bring the hate as much, but it does make for a great title anyway - and I adore the implications that come from that word as well! Plus, when you google "The Sycophant," it seems I'm the first one to claim the title for his project. (Not counting some lame myspace account that somehow outranks me in Google's eyes.)

Now... what could The Sycophant be? It's prime for an observational journal comic, which is something I've wanted to try for a while now. It could signify a title character who bumbles through live in awe of everything around him. (Probably because he lacks viable talent and skill on his own.) I could take the name and use it to justify a site of nothing but fan art for people I admire! Yeah, that's not happening. Fan art is fun now and then, but making it your thing is the same thing as wasting all your artistic talent!

For now, the domain is set to forward you to the blog. (As I post this, the forwarding setting hadn't gone through yet, so those testing it out right away might not get the right result.) It'll probably redirect here for a while, as I've got a lot on my plate already - and there's also the problem of me not knowing the first thing about how to properly use a domain. Hosting? Servers? Site email? No clue how those things work at the moment. But one day, man. One day...

Oh, and I also registered chrisp.co, but I don't feel a need to justify that. That sucker was meant for me!

Progress, and the end of acrylics

As I continue my quest to improve, I have to face and defeat my old demons. SCAD intensity plus epic life tragedy meant a scrambled Chrispy who had to let things fall aside while he struggled to keep afloat. Now, with this time of peace, it is time to make amends.

It's been a long climb to get back to my old levels of productivity. For the first time in many months, I have a comic buffer. It's still small, but having it means I don't have to devote every single day to completing comics. I can go at my own pace, do the type of work I want to do, take a mental health day and, most importantly, turn my attentions to part projects that got pushed aside when my life hit the dark ages.

The most important project I dropped was my last commissioned painting. When SCAD became the dominant force in my life, work halted on the piece and it was shelved indefinitely. I kept vowing to set aside time to complete it, but week after week that time was not there. I would drag the painting and painting supplies with me whenever I traveled - just in case I had a free day - but those trips always ended with no progress. Even when my schedule opened up, my increased comic obligation and persistent mental funk meant I rarely had time to breathe, much less pay attention to other things. It's only been on this recent kick, which my productivity increasing, that picking this project back up became feasible. This week, my comic finally reached a place where I had a buffer of a few days. I was finally able to take one day and set it aside for other projects, and this painting was first in line.

It seems weird for such a simple composition to have caused so many problems, but that's how it is. I'm quite excited for it to almost be done. Finishing this piece and shipping it off will serve as the closing of the last, awkward chapter of my life - allowing for a fresh start on things!

I refused to take on any new commissions as long as I had outstanding work to do, but now that I'm almost done I can start looking ahead. I'll tell you one thing: Working with acrylics is OUT for now. Thanks to my painting class last quarter, I don't get as much joy from working with acrylics as I used to. That urge will return one day, but it's on to new media for now! I've started dabbling in watercolors, and I'd like to keep practicing that. I still have my large collection of good old colored pencils - and, if I want to combine it all, a nice group of watercolor pencils too! I want to see what goodness I can do with that stuff when I open up commissions again!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Sycophant - growing the brand?

So I just registered thesycophant.com. Suddenly the title of my blog means so much more! You know what this also means? I HAVE TO JUSTIFY MY PURCHASE! If I'm buying a domain like this, I'd better put it to good use. Cartooning side project? Oh, imagine the possibilities...

I've long since claimed my next project will be The Haters Club, a name which began as in-joke in my old social circle. I love that title. It's fun. It sets the tone for my humor right away. It's... common enough to be used by a few websites.

Well, then, I just registered a viable alternative... which is *also* based on an in-joke from that blissful time of my life. The Sycophant may not bring the hate as much, but it does make for a great title anyway - and I adore the implications that come from that word as well! Plus, when you google "The Sycophant," it seems I'm the first one to claim the title for his project. (Not counting some lame myspace account that somehow outranks me in Google's eyes.)

Now... what could The Sycophant be? It's prime for an observational journal comic, which is something I've wanted to try for a while now. It could signify a title character who bumbles through live in awe of everything around him. (Probably because he lacks viable talent and skill on his own.) I could take the name and use it to justify a site of nothing but fan art for people I admire! Yeah, that's not happening. Fan art is fun now and then, but making it your thing is the same thing as wasting all your artistic talent!

For now, the domain is set to forward you to the blog. (As I post this, the forwarding setting hadn't gone through yet, so those testing it out right away might not get the right result.) It'll probably redirect here for a while, as I've got a lot on my plate already - and there's also the problem of me not knowing the first thing about how to properly use a domain. Hosting? Servers? Site email? No clue how those things work at the moment. But one day, man. One day...

Oh, and I also registered chrisp.co, but I don't feel a need to justify that. That sucker was meant for me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


"That advice dog is a pretty cool guy. I wonder if I can get in on his meme action?" This is the thing that popped into my head when I woke up early this morning. This is why I tend not to do the early thing.

Having one's creation abused in this way is truly a noble goal. I'd love to have a legion of fans filling my forums with these! As my forums currently constitute one of the saddest ghost towns on the internet, this is not going to happen - BUT A GUY CAN DREAM! One day, man. One day!

So igniting an internet craze isn't gonna happen. Doesn't mean I can't start preparing for one anyway! Enjoy these templates I quickly whipped up:

Concerned Jacob:

Optimist Bud:

Panicked Autumn:

Happy Tiffany:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ha! Ha! I'm drawing background characters!

With the current Precocious storyline, I'm starting to push myself artistically. By moving characters outside of the standard environments and into the big city, I can no longer rely on simple color schemes to indicate the settings - I need to draw some backgrounds! And once I draw those backgrounds, however simple they may be, I must then populate them with bystanders! Needless to say I am both excited and terrified. I need the challenge. I need the practice. I need to make sure I get strips done for every day. SO NO GOOFING OFF!

So far, I have put zero planning into what background characters looks like. I jump in with my pencil, scribble a body and fill in details on a whim. That works ok, I guess, but maybe I should try to do something will all these extras? I suppose this is a good time to hand out cameos, but I draw cartoon doggies and kitties. That greatly limits who I can show off. (Although I'm willing to furrify a person, if asked.) There's also the fact that my style is so simple, any cameo renditions would be largely unrecognizable - especially when those characters end up only being 10 pixels high in the final comic. Eh. Who knows?

You know what, this blog totally sucks. Blogger's constant glitchery has totally thrown me off of what was a rather weak idea for a post in the first place. I'm posting it anyway (assuming Blogger works) so it can count towards my blog quote, but I'm gonna feel bad about it. I'll need to make it up to everyone later.

At least this awful post is the product of lots of non-awful work and progress!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

*sings* Raindrops keep falling on my bed...

Unlike most stories that involve a wet spot on one's bed, this one isn't about personal shame and embarrassment - which makes it a unique entry for this blog as well!

That wet spot appeared a few weeks ago, prompting me to completely flip out. It is not supposed to rain indoors! My feeble mind couldn't process it! What followed was chaos, as I dragged everyone around me into a panic as well.

My poor upstairs neighbor was dragged home from a social outing because the obvious guess was something in his apartment was leaking. He couldn't find anything, and suggested it was condensation in my AC vent. Ok, so all I had to do was turn off the AC for a while and wait for the handyman to arrive and fix it. Not hard, until I realized I now live in the south, which spends half the year actively on fire.

But I did it. I survived until the repair crew arrived. In my bedroom. At 9am. On my day off. With me still asleep. Since I hadn't answered the door, the building's maintenance man assumed I wasn't in and used his key. Awkward situation for everyone! Still, the fixing was happening. Yay! Life was perfect again!

So, yeah, it started leaking again. Harder than before. (Good thing I hadn't moved my bed back into position yet.) This time the maintenance guy cut a hole in my ceiling to get a look at the cause. It was definitely not my AC that was the culprit, so cool air resumed! The water was coming from up above. Once again my upstairs neighbor got questioned. Once again, no leak was found. I was left with a hole in my ceiling and a ladder in my bedroom, so I could get up in there the next time a leak started and see what was going down. That... that was kinda cool. I kinda looked forward to the next leak.

Last night, the water began to flow again. Once again, pans had to be laid out to collect water. At his point, my one pan had grown to three needed to catch all the drips. As it was the middle of the night, I wasn't about to call anyone. I slept on my couch - again - knowing I was gonna have to ruin someone's Mothers Day in the morning.

Woke up late. Checked the room. Didn't look like any new water. Took a shower. Emerged to a DELUGE! Water was coming down fast and furious. Three pans could only handle the main leak. New dripping spots were forming elsewhere on the ceiling, so this became a full-on five-pan leak!

I sent a tentative text to the maintenance guy. He was out of town, as expected. Texted my upstairs neighbor again, asking if anything new was going on. He was baffled that this was still going on, again asking if it was my AC. I told him the hole in the ceiling proved that wasn't the cause, and that promptly brought him down for a look. I think he was impressed by the calamity!

Seeing how the water was dripping down from high up, he returned to his apartment to make one more check for a cause. This time... guess what? He spotted a cold water pipe that was leaking like crazy. WE FOUND THE CAUSE! He shut off the water. The dripping stopped. Plans for repair are now underway. Life is good. All things now return to normal.

Well, not all things...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Your webcartoonist has evolved!

When writing the most recent news post in the site, I wrote the line in the title. I quickly deleted it, but the thought got in my head. "What kind of Pokemon would I be?" I had to find out!

And so began a sage of putting too much thought into something silly! The sketchbook came out and the ideas started flowing. As an intense Pokemon player and insane nerd, I put a lot of care into all the little details. The result...

Meet Pokemon Chrispy!

The first step in Pokemon creation was choosing my type. I quickly settled on dark, as it both fits with my sense of humor and reflects on my tendency to harp on the negative.

Next up, I needed to figure out what form my Pokemon would take. I figured a kitty pokemon fit best because I wuv kitties, I draw kitties and, well, it meant my evolution could be based on a Savannah cat! (See below.) It all fits!

And now the over-analysis begins. I got conceptual. What kind of Pokemon role player would I be? Well, I'm a impulsive type who can do wonders when I get going - but I'm hardly durable. Hitting me back hard makes me crumble. It seems obvious to me - a glass cannon Special attack sweeper! I hit the battlefield, throw everything I have at the opponent and hope to hell they don't survive it, because one good hit will do me in.

Now for some details. Every pokemon gets a nature and special ability. For nature, I chose to go with timid. Not only is that me, but in-game, that means I get increased speed at the cost of physical strength - it's the most common nature of actual special attack sweepers! For ability, I knew this one going in: Defeatist. Not a positive reflection of me, but recently accurate. In-game, this a pokemon with a defeatist ability is a juggernaut - right up until things get difficult. If their HP gets reduced below halfway, the pokemon "gives up" and only fights half as hard. A pokemon can also carry a held item. I could pessimist here and give myself a ring target, which means every attack always hits me, but I'm going to highlight my potential and give myself some wise glasses, which slightly powers up my attacks. (Plus, yanno, I'm wearing glasses.)

What moves would I have for the unevolved Chrispy? He's a dark type, so he needs a dark move. Night Daze seemed the best fit, due to the general sleep cycle of a cartoonist. I also threw in Nasty Plot for good measure, which is perfect for the wannabe looking to break through to top tiers. I'm an artist, so it seems only right I get to use the move Sketch. (The bonus here being that, in competitive pokemon battling, me having sketch and decent base stats would make me highly sought after! It's nice to be desired!) Finally, I had to go with the move I use the most in real life: Withdraw. Withdraw boosts one's defense up one level - which is useless for a defeatist pokemon as all it means is that the opponent gets one free turn to disable you. So, yeah, it fits.

But this isn't all about sadness and sucking. I SAID I EVOLVED, DAMMIT! I've become new! I've become better! I've become... Chrisperior!

This grand evolution adds on a new type: Fire! Because I'm on fire! Get it? Get it? Uh... moving on.

I get new moves! Energy Ball not only symbolizes my new productivity, but it is a GREAT move for a dark/fire type pokemon! Overheat utilizes the new fire typing and hints at how easily I could burn myself out if I push too hard too fast, as the move sharply reduces my stats after I use it. Focus blast is another great competitive move that can also represent my struggle with ADHD. Focus blast gets the job done great... when it hits. It's, unfortunately, not that reliable. Yeah, that fits.

It's time upgrade my held item from one set of glasses to another. Enter the choice specs, which limits you to one move but makes that move super-powerful. Let's face it, that's my best-case scenario as a cartoonist. I'm not that versatile. If I can make sure the one thing I *can* do is done well, that's a win for me.

I'll let the defeatist nature stay for now, as the threat of relapse constantly looms. Knowing how quickly things can turn south, even when one is the Mary Sue of the Pokemon world, can hopefully keep alert. The second I start slacking off and taking things for granted, the bad habits get back in. There is another ability options, should a dream world Chrispy appear: Moody. Moody means I'd have wild mood (stat) swings every turn. Good for painting me as unstable, yet functional, but it's also a WAY overpowered ability in the long run when game play is concerned. I'm not that conceited to give myself any credit like that quite yet.

So, yeah, I put in WAY too much thought here and spent WAY too much time on this one gag. Whatever, man. It was a fun thought exercise and I'm quite pleased with the results.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The points system

It takes a certain brand of crazy to attempt the daily cartooning route. The need to constantly produce - and produce work of quality - brings with it quite a bit of stress. All it takes is one bad day to throw a daily cartoonist into the downward spiral of schedule slip, and I'd been tempting that fate for a long time.

I had gotten into a bad habit. Instead of running a healthy comic buffer, I left script problems bog me down and reduce me to day-to-day cartooning. For most of the past month, it was not uncommon for me to START drawing the comic at 9pm for a 12am deadline. I can think of at least two times when I made it with less than five minutes to spare, one time my internet went out on me at 11:30pm without my comic uploaded and, of course, the times I had to put out an uncolored comic at midnight. Not only was that method of production risky, but the constant working without a net led to stress and a few rush jobs that were not fully developed.

But this is the new, productive Chrispy at work now! I'm making a conscious effort to restore myself to old glory and push even farther into awesomeness. It's time to bring order back to the chaos that my production process had become.

The problem with doing a comic start-to-finish every day is that you have to work on all comic levels at the same time, and that's usually not how artistic types work. We are moody folk. Sometimes we are full of ideas, so we should spend our time scripting and not wasting that momentum in the tedium of drawing layouts. Conversely, sometimes the brain is full of static and doing a less-creative task like lettering or inking is best to restore order. Sometimes all you want to do is draw for hours with nothing else dragging you down. Sometimes the thought of coloring a comic seems unbearable because it means moving to the computer in the bedroom and not being able to watch playoff hockey during that time. All cartoonist have that problem.

My solution of the moment is to introduce a point system. I break down the comic process into four steps: Scripting, penciling, inking and coloring. Every time I accomplish one of those steps, I give myself a point. Four points equals one successful comic made. Every additional point means the building of the buffer that is vital to this process' success!

The second I have a buffer, I have given myself the flexibility and breathing room to use the system properly. If I don't have to complete a comic that day, I can focus on whatever my strength of the moment is.

For example, Tuesday was a penciling day. I penciled four comics and did the layouts for four others. Monday the goal was coloring the three strips I had inked on Sunday. All this was set up by a massive scripting/drawing session on Saturday. On my desk right now are three inked strips ready for coloring, one strip ready for inking and four strips ready for penciling. There is a text file forever open on each of my computers to catch all script ideas I have. I have options! It's been MONTHS since I had options!

The best part about having options is having less stress. I don't stop at four points anymore. When doing a full comic a day, the final posting seemed like the end of the job. I would go off and do something else, sick of cartooning for the day. By working on what I want to work on, I keep pressing on. I did my four points of penciling today and pressed on with inking the strips because I was excited about the process.

The more points you get, the more everyone wins. I'm trying to keep this momentum as long as I can, because if I can get it fed the glory of the past shall be reclaimed. The more buffer produced with Precocious, the more side projects I can pursue, the more focus I can give to positive things like catching up on my reading and writing inane blog posts that go on forever while proclaiming the obvious as if it was something just invented!

Like I said, everyone wins.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I am not Commander Riker

Growing the beard does nothing to improve my life, appearance or the general quality of all things surrounding me - yet I keep growing one anyway!

Why? First, because I am profoundly lazy. As I am decidedly non-wolfman, my beard doesn't grow with any aggressive speed. There's not much beard change from day to day, so it's very easy to shrug my shoulders and say, "Meh, I'll tackle it tomorrow." As time went on, the beard procrastination time grew longer and longer - until I actually had a REAL. FRIGGIN. BEARD. That was unexpected.

Compounding my laziness is my bathroom's plumbing. For some reason, the water in the sink takes a long time to heat up. So every morning, when I would plan to shave, I would stumble over to the sink, turn it on, wait a minute, give up and return to bed for a few more precious minutes of sleep. I decided to go with the crazy beard thing in Savannah. It makes me look like a proper art student! I even grew to like having a moderate amount of facial hair.

But the thing about hair is that it grows, and nice beards look nice for a limited time. Sure, I could buy a beard trimmer and just use that - but implies I am committed to having a beard. Even though I've rocked facial hair for most of the past year, I still don't consider myself a bearded dude. All cartoon Chrispys drawn by me are clean-shaven! No, my beard will only exist as a sign of laziness and insanity! I'll let it grow until it become truly hideous, shave it off and start the cycle anew.

A few weeks ago, the time to shave came. Like a true lazy person, I shrugged it off and said I'd do it the next day. There was only one problem: THE HOCKEY PLAYOFFS STARTED THAT DAY!

It's a tradition in hockey to grow a playoff beard while your team is in the playoffs, and I was going to partake in that tradition this year. If I shaved after the playoffs started, that would jinx my team. But... but I REALLY needed to shave!

Well, seeing as my team is the Washington Capitals, who are known for choking in the playoffs year after year, I figured that problem would take care of itself. And if they succeeded, DUDE, MY TEAM IS WINNING! A crazy "I'm homeless and unstable" beard is TOTALLY worth that! Sure enough, the Caps knocked out their first round opponent with relative ease. Go beard!

And then round two began. Loss. Loss. Loss. The Caps are still alive, but things are as bleak as they could be. You know what, guys? You don't need my beard's help any more. Shortly after the game ended today in heartbreaking fashion, I walked to the bathroom and grabbed my razor. I am done with you, playoff beard!

Despite my massive jinxing of my team, I will continue to root for the Caps to pull the miracle. They don't need my beard to succeed - THE MAGIC WAS IN THEM THE WHOLE TIME!

(Yeah, they're gonna get swept and it's all my fault.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Buying in bulk makes you feel like a pro

Tuesday's strip used up the last template in my current pack, so that means it's time to bust out the big bad box of Bristol board! Behold: 300 strip templates just waiting for me to taint them with my ink!

It's silly, but every time I exhaust these packs of 100 it brings mini-celebration. I've outlived another pack! I've rocked the world 100 more times! There was once a day when I bought these templates in packs of 14 each. Now I look at the blocks of 100 and shrug it off as if it was nothing. I know I can conquer these things, and I know I can make that conquering worthwhile. (You are not allowed to disagree!)

And now, it is time to crack one of these packs open and defile the first victim. Woohoo!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A great idea, for more capable hands...

So last quarter I took a painting course at SCAD. It was a class of 15 senior painting majors - and me, a SEQA major whose painting experience peaked at painting 102. It was... brutal. My classmates had no desire to welcome anyone new, especially an evil outsider. My professor, while kind, was frustrated to have to deal with someone with so little painting experience. And, of course, I met this challenge with a full-on melt down due to this coinciding with the loss of my grandparents.

Come midterms, I had to show work I knew was weak and, boy, did they let me have it. It wasn't just pointing out that the work was bad, but they treated me as hopelessly ignorant. I wasn't a real painter. To them, I was someone coming into their territory with the arrogance that I could do their job better without any training. They were out for blood.

My reaction to this critique? A big ol' SCREW YOU to everyone involved! You know what? Cartoonists aren't inferior beings! They have every right to be displayed on gallery walls, and I was going to make sure that happened! Not only was I glorifying myself to taunt them, but I designed my series to allow me to use (the horror) store-bought canvasses I already had on hand. (In this class, if you didn't shell out the crazy money and spend all those hours of effort with construction and gesso, you weren't a real painter.) Any questions were hand waved by me claiming it was part of the concept - and concept is king in the art world!

As malicious as my motives were, this isn't a bad idea at all. It would be fun to be the painter who set out to paint portraits of webcomics' best and brightest. I was thrilled to be able to paint portraits of cartoonists I know and admire!

There was only one problem: I was still in a major funk. The reason I've held off from sharing these paintings until now is because, frankly, they aren't strong enough. I care about the people in these pictures and I wanted to do the best for them, so anything short of perfect would not do! I'd really like to see what I could accomplish with a redo and a mind with more clarity. Maybe, one day, this webcartoonist project could be resurrected and become something after all.

If you think I'm doing the typical self-loathing artist shtick here, then consider this merely the pendulum swinging back. For the second half of my painting class, I pretended I was nothing but gung-ho about this series. I put on my best BS face and enthusiastically explained how every mistake and bit of awkwardness was actually deliberate execution of my concept. For my critique, I put a smile on my face and talked boldly - even going to the point where I replaced my proposed sixth portrait with a tiny "to be continued" sign that was meant to mimic the end of a comic issue. (Note the arrangement of the portraits loosely resembles a comic book page.) While they frowned upon the fact the "to be continued" piece was clearly done the morning of - it might not have even been dry when I hung it - they bought my reasoning! Even though it was clear to everyone that I wasn't very good that quarter, my "conviction" salvaged my grade.

And, you know what, I do have conviction about this project. It SHOULD Be awesome. I just needs a better painter behind it. (And maybe, one day, that better painter could be me.)

Since you're dying to know, here are my subjects:

Top-left: Isabel Marks of Namir Deiter
Top-right: Jimmy Misanthrope of Agents of the Endtimes
Mid-left: Sarah 'Pickles' Dill of Distillum
Mid-right: Yeah, that's me. It was the prof's idea and I went with it.
Bottom: Irene Pitcairn of The Elves of LlueGarnok

Much love to all of them for allowing me to paint them. Much apologies to them for coming up a bit short. YOU WILL BE AVENGED!