Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Objects in future are closer than they appear

It's coming...

Precocious is going to be officially launched by midnight tonight. The full Gender Wars arc will be posted on the site, and regular updating starts on Monday. Tell your friends, especially if they work for major syndicates. (I prefer publishing syndicates, but crime syndicates also have their charm...)

Edit: It's here! It may be four months late in showing up, but I am still very happy to have this burden off my shoulders!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Let's do this!

Let's do this. Let's do this. Let's do this. Let's do this. Let's do this.

Scripting: Done.
Sketching: Done.
Lettering: Done.
Inking: Done.
Scanning/Photoshopping/Formatting/Website updating: Aww, dammit, there's MORE!?

This is an image from strip #36, the latest to be scanned. I have 27 to go (including a promo strip, so the final strip of the storyline isn't the first strip everyone sees) and it's nothing but a grind now.

My scanner is too small to get the whole strip at once, so I have to do it in two shifts. Thanks to the small lip on the scanning bed, the image is *slighly* off. This means I scan a strip twice, drag them into a template file, use layers and opacity to line them up, delete the extra, merge layers, use the contrast tool and use a select color range tool to eliminate the gray leftover that comes from Photoshop not filtering blue properly. THEN it's touch-up time! Some strips require lots of minor erasing, which adds up. MANY strips (due to me being a lazy inker and not having my color range calibrated properly) need some extra black painted in. Finally, I rotate the strip to make it straight, shrink it too size and drop it into the final template for saving. Sometimes I skip the erasing, blackening and rotating... oh well.

Ahh, but if I'm good I can make a decent dent into scanning the strips tonight, so tomorrow can be primarily spent doing tedious web design!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Stipples are the Devil's Dots

Obviously, this is not a stippled image. The stippled strip had no panel that would make a nice splash isolation. Also, I am mad at it for wasting most of my evening. (It came out looking nice, though.)

The image shown is more about me being in DC. It looks like I'll be here one more day. It means I'll have to start scanning/'shopping/uploading strips here, which is not my preference, but the whole "being with loving family" thing outweighed the "be a lonely and selfish jerk" mindset. They're still not getting me for New Years!

For my inking update: Four strips remain incomplete. Two of them involve a chessboard, which is something that will be annoying to draw with tech pens. One is the last strip, which is a relatively easy inking job. I just wanted to save it until last. The final is a strip I wrote about before. Strip #45 was the one that could be simple or easy, depending on my ambition. Well, I went for the most ambitious drawing as possible. The result: FAIL.

The most ambitious panel of the whole damn series is panel #3 in strip #45. In it we see a close-up of the water balloon in Jacob's hand, with Jacob's face showing through the balloon. I even filled a teapot with water and held it up to a poster so I could properly get the distortion. Well, guess what... in ink it just doesn't work. I can't properly draw his fingers to show them curling around the balloon. His face is distorted and upside down, so I have to make sure people know he is looking *through* the balloon and not looking at a reflection. Parts of Jacob's head should also be visible from behind the balloon. That's just too much for me to take at this point. I botched it horribly, and it was made worse due to me not having any white out to cover up the disaster. I might have to redo panel #3 and scan it in separately. That's frustrating.

Oh well, there's a good chance I'll be able to finish the inking tonight. That's supremely awesome! Once the strips are done, it's just a long grind to scan and prepare them. If only no-copy blue was also no-scan blue. Life would be so much easier.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's like a Rorschach test

After doing preliminary inking on the final 10 strips (only one of which is now completed), I needed to do *something* while the ink dried. I decided to give myself a challenge: draw all my characters in one strip with correct proportions. While that didn't go well, Photoshop did come to my rescue.

Once I knew I was a proportion failure, I decided to investigate silhouettes. The main characters all appear in cutout form at the bottom of each Precocious page. It's a nice effect, but the cutouts are based on the very first "official" sketches of the characters. I played around with the shapes, trying to imagine how they would appear. They say you've made it as a cartoonist when your characters can recognized by their silhouettes. I have not made it.

Things I learned, character by character:

Roddy: The placement of the ears means all fluff points are covered. Still, as he's a generic cat shape, the form is very recognizable. Roddy is the only character without a specific accessory, as he is distinguished by his black color. Bonus note: When I was inking Roddy, I discovered that he looked kinda good with his muzzle and cheeks not filled in - would it be too dramatic if I turned him into a black and white Socks-style cat? Hmm...

Bud: His Scottish fold ears really makes it hard to keep him in proportion with the others. Bud often ends up with a tiny head. When Photoshopping the sketches, I would drag one over the other, so Bud *technically* is close in proportion to the rest. His lack of upward fluffiness, however, makes him look more compact.

Suzette: The outline of her bell, collar, bangs, neck and muzzle all conflict horribly. Also, just like Bud, Suzette's ears going down tends to result in her being drawn as really tiny.

Dionne: Long hair tends to block out everything, so I had to work to find a way to keep the form visible. The result was a semi-twirl thing, which does look nice. Of course, I see Dionne in the outline because I know what Dionne looks like. Would anyone else figure out the character from that pose?

Jacob: I was worried his folded ears would look like a big block in silhouette, but I think he's decently recognizable.

Max: Both my doggies with big ears have the same problem. While normal drawing should show the back ear to fit cartoon logic, the rule does not apply in silhouette. I should have done a more direct profile. Max also needs more conservative fluffiness.

Tiffany is one I feared, because most of he quirks are hard to show in outline. I decided to try to give her a dynamic pose, like I did with Dionne, and the result was an abomination unto the lord. I would have been better making a direct profile with the braid adhered to her back. This pose make it look like a creepy third arm.

Autumn - Man, this bitch is HARD to draw in a way that would make a decent outline! Not only did I draw her facing left, which is difficult for me, but so many of her features conflict with other features. Argh.

Oh well, it was a fun experiment. It also took up my entire evening, which should have been spent inking. Whoops!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I just had to do this...

I have 32 strips to finish and upload. 32 strips that are progressing nicely. I have free time here, but not enough to start inking again. What to do....

It's shameless showboating, but I just *had* to lay them out in a big block! I had to use the webcam to take the shot, but it was so worth it. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Click on the image below to see a large, and therefore more in charge, version.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Achy hand update

I'm taking a break from inking in an effort to prevent my hand from falling off. (Drawing = left hand. Photoshopping = right.) What you see above is one of the panels that needed lots of tech pen action. Each little dot adds up to a long time spent stippling - and this was the "easy" panel to stipple in this particular strip. How do cartoonists do all those backgrounds? Oh, right, they're PAID to do it full time.

Here's the production tally as of posting:
- 9 strips completed
- 4 strips still needing minor tech pen work
- 11 strips still in very early stages

It looks good for now, but I should note that, the above-pictured strip aside, I am saving all the complicated strips until the end. It's always nice when the last few miles of a marathon are uphill!

Edit: Going against common sense, I decided to start working again. Ow. Fucking ow. I finished the four that needed minor pen attention. Then I decided to work on the strip that required all tech pen work. That was a dumb thing to do. Even with my wrist growing a mouth so it could yell, "HEY, STOP DOING THAT!" I fought through the pain and finished the damn thing. If I touch one more pen tonight, I may have to start going by "Righty" from now on.

And the ink shall flow like wine

This is not a repeat sketch! It's an indication of progress! PROGRESS!

After getting home from another Paulsen Holiday, I began the long and painful journey that is inking. When I finally ran out of gas, I had three strips completed, two that need minor tech pen work, two that need MAJOR tech pen work (which takes longer than regular inking) and five that are still in the early stage of inking. And, uh, a dozen untouched strips still in the pile.

The plan for the immediate future is this: For Friday, the main goal is get myself gathered and relax. Inking is priority #3. Saturday I am heading down to DC again. I'll probably be back Tuesday - hopefully with EVERYTHING inked. The goal is to spend the last few days of the year scanning, 'shopping and updating the web page. I hope I can go a week without sleeping...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The hard part is over. Now for the hard part!

Last night I finished sketching the final strips for Precocious' pilot arc. It feels wonderful, but that was only step 2 in production. Now I have to ink these darn things (24 of 'em) and not screw it up. This batch is going to require a lot more detail work as well, so I can't estimate how long inking will take. The goal is still having it ready to go by January 1st. Doing so gives me a nice and neat division between "early work" and "contemporary masterpiece" strips!

Today nothing will get done, as I'm doing ye olde holiday visiting with family. I know I'll be up in DC again this weekend, which *should* give me ample down time to use for inking. Gentlemen, this might work! (FOOL! THAT WILL NEVER WORK!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cartoonist delight is a strange type of delight

One of the big issues with a "fine" artist turning to cartooning is how ingrained the standards of drawing become. Cartooning, of course, is not an accurate reflection of real life. Cartooning has its own set of weird rules, which I've written about several times. It's quite a task to unlearn standard drawing logic and learn the bizarre cartoon logic.

When I accomplish something "cartoonish" I get excited! Bushes with eyes and tails make no logical sense - nor do real human-like creatures hide "inside" bushes. In cartoons, however, this is the visual language and it all makes perfect sense. Drawing what I did here took a lot of letting go. I'm very proud of my glaring bushes! (Even if I got the visuals and dialog switched by accident - but it doesn't impact anything so I am not bothering to change it.)

This two-panel success more than makes up for my immense comic failure that comes in panel 3 of this strip, when my attempt at a three-way split screen just doesn't work. The only thing that can save it is something I've mostly avoided - TEXTURE! These last few strips are going to feature occasional forays into the advanced level of cartooning! Of course, when I use these techniques it is to avoid the EVEN MORE ADVANCED cartooning techniques of action shots!

Anyway, at this point I've sketched into strip 56. Chances are I'm done for the night, but I hope to finish sketching 56 before unconsciousness. I fully intend to finish sketching and lettering the arc tomorrow, or later today if you want to be technical. (Two wordless strips will help that.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A New Year's Resolution

As of posting, I have strips 38-50 sketched, lettered and ready for inking. 12 strips to go before sweet resolution! (See the wordplay? SEE IT!?) If I work my butt off today and tomorrow, I could be done by Christmas. That would give me enough time to ink, scan and upload by January 1st!

Finisingh this quixotic project will be a great relief. In my recent history, victories have been hard to come by. If I get one, the plan is to get another and another and another. It's time for some damn momentum!

Today the last Ozy and Millie strip was published. I really wanted to be up and running before it happened, as I had the delusion of picking up its legacy. All of the strips that influenced me are retired or semi-retired. Something needs to fill the void! I may be raw and rough now, but I've got great crossover potential, dammit!

It'll take a lot to get this accomplished, but maybe that last strip will be what I need. As DC Simpson dragged out finishing his comic, so did I. Now I've got to scramble to finish while the window is open. I know it sounds odd for me to hinge so much on another cartoonist, but this is a person who can shut me down before I start if there's a perceived rip-off. This is a blessing I need, both both practical reasons and because Simpson is my cartooning hero!

Anyway, I took a break from drawing because the next few strips are really hard to draw. I must purge my worry (yay, blogging) and renew my concentration. This is why people don't like artists. I give a flowery and pretentious statement when a normal person would just say, "I'm going on break."

Monday, December 22, 2008

All the old showstoppers

Without any coherent idea in my head or theme in my sketchbook, I am going to do an early sketchbook leftovers post. It's not like I can work on a comic. (A cat is sleeping where I need to sit!) I have lots of nice sketches, so it works. In order to match them up, extensive Photoshopping was needed, but whatevs. The post title is a New Pornographers song. I've been listening to them and it seemed appropriate enough.

This adorable curtsy isn't that great of a sketch (where is the tail attached?) but I thought it funny enough to share. In related news, I seriously need to learn how to draw a curtsy, because I clearly have no sense of mid-pose skirt dynamics.

Obviously, these are three sketches from three different times. Jacob has been scrunched to fit. Dionne's sketch isn't even finished. Really, I just wanted to share Suzette (sans-collar for some reason) and needed some extra sketches to justify it.

As mentioned before, I had a failed attempt to draw the parents at a party. Just because, I scanned Sydney and Sky anyway. Maybe I should revisit this idea down the road.

It's the MARAUDERS! Max and Roddy! Get it? Meh. I probably should have saved these sketches for a day when I don't have anything else to share. I could write up a decent Max/Roddy analysis. Oh well, I just have to be awesome everyday now...

And here we have nice sketches of the main twosome. Autumn, fittingly, can be very difficult. Her large tail, hair points and big honkin' ears take up a lot of room - which means it's easy to draw her at a different proportion than the rest. Autumn is especially large and in charge because I had to Photoshop a bunch to get the two sketches to match. Bud's original sketch is large, so I had ample room to get the features in. Autumn's was smaller, so she had to be stretched to fit her features. And I still didn't finish her dress. Go me!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The new subversives

I had a headache all day due to paint fumes, so comic work wasn't happening. I inked the dialog in the seven new strips, but that's it. Hell, I didn't even sketch today. The one you see above is the only thing I've created today. ("Today" being defined as the time from when I wake up to when I fall asleep.) Originally I was just happy to have an ok Tiffany sketch, and I was going to use it as impetus to scan and sort all the nice random character drawings I've had recently. But this sketch wasn't content with being a character drawing. While I didn't do any art today, art was clearly on my mind.

Art is a strange thing. No matter what you make, there is someone out there who will adore it... and someone who finds it stab-the-artist-in-the-face awful. It all depends on the crowd around the piece. What gets the highest praise in art school gets rejected from "local" art shows. What sells in said art show will depress every "contemporary" artist. What is an artist to do - find a new crowd or adapt to the environment?

I've sorta enjoyed Art at the Mill because it's a challenge to figure out what... um... "rural" people want in art. These people are not always art simpletons, but their art culture is wholly different than mine. They gasp at paintings of roosters. They shrug helplessly at the more interesting work. They organizers know enough about art to know quality, but they're also in the business to SELL. When push comes to shove, marketability beats merit every time.

My challenge was to find the line where a piece can have satisfying artistic merit AND sell. I have failed miserably. Sure, I could shun the world that values sunflowers and rooster paintings. Sure, I could move and find a nice, insular art community that has a deeper understanding of art. Problem is... would I fit with them any better?

I still remember the art opening I attended for students at the Corcoran. Every single one had dyed their hair black, with a pink accent for flavor. I'm sure they all think they are being individuals. Right. Being among my own art brethren, the star students were similarly identified via fashion.

Now, these mindsets are understandable for both groups. Most people only know mimetic art, so any art that doesn't look like something is a hit-or-miss unknown. You can call it ignorance, but that is a weighted term. You can't expect everyone to have a working knowledge of the concepts of design and art history. To be honest, my own art history knowledge is very weak. How can I judge if I'm ignorant as well? (Now, when ignorance turns into pride, that's where we have a problem - but that's for another post.)

Similarly, artists dress the way they do because they have the freedom to do so. It's the "subversive" move to flaunt society's norms and be free. After all, contemporary art is a very selfish thing when chosen as a career. Again, I've got pretentious blood of my hands. I have long hair and I dress too casual. I do this because I prefer the look, AND because it does play into people's first impressions of me. No generic MBA would wander into meetings with long hair and lounge pants. People who don't like my look are probably people I don't care to know. It's a social filtration system.

But here is where I stand out from the pack. I *like* to flirt with mass consumption. I want my name to be known outside of the wine and hummus circles! I also don't want to compromise. Instead, I use a keen marketing mind to carve out my own niche. One trick in advertising is to create a need the consumer didn't know they had. I'm not selling out, per se, but focusing instead on convincing others my work is mainstream.

I may have the hair, but I still don't look like any "normal" art student. A friend at school once pointed out that my argyle shirt made me the nicest-dressed person in the class. How awkward. The professor was a long-haired type who wore all black, and here I am in a decent shirt and corduroys! My assertion of individuality comes in my refusal to take on a style any more than my own. Lack of style makes me the real subversive in the room. That's how I stand out from the pack - by not being noticeable by looks alone.

The problem with being an outlier, of course, is that you are irrelevant UNLESS others start to follow you. That's where my plan comes crashing down. Ahh, but there's still time!

Anyway, what brought this on was my recent attempts to paint bowls of flowers. It's my most subversive work yet! I am using the visual language of the "common" art appreciator, but speaking with poetic quality of an artist. Will my assertive style overwhelm the bonds of familiarity? Will I finally make something accessible enough that someone might buy it? Best part: I've been painting PLASTIC plants! I'm gleefully artificial, but still joyously conceptual. I'm taunting both camps rather than playing their games. Leave it to me to go meta! (And leave it to meta to be off-putting to most everyone.)

To me, there is a story behind everything I do. There is something deeper, written in my personal language. To everyone looking at my pictures without reading my commentary, I'm just painting "interesting" things. If the viewer thinks it is the good implication of interesting, then he or she may be able to find a deeper level of enjoyment if they want to. If not, I'm still making someone happy.

I may never strike that perfect balance, and I will surely do work that is both selfish and sell-out now and then, but it's dancing on that line that drives me. That's why I do art.

I just hope I find that balance soon, because I have no intention of having a lonely life of self-satisfied poverty. Get with the program, people!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The naive life

I've drawn up to strip #45 now. I've inked up to #38. Yay!

As I get better at drawing the strip, I also get more adventurous - which Lisa Simpson's fish sticks me back to mediocrity! (Two posts in a row with that analogy. Go me!) I still don't have the sense of composition that comes with cartooning experience, so sometimes I get myself into trouble. My character's hand motions can interfere with dialog space. Too much dialog can force characters off-panel. Who is speaking and the amount of dialog can cause the hierarchy of a panel's layout to be confused. Adding one extra element to a strip means you have to remember it for all subsequent strips. Some characters look awful when shown from the wrong angles. I can learn these things, but it takes a while to internalize them. Until then, I stumble upon the same mistakes over and over.

And there are some things I screw up because I am so innocent. First, I created a character named "Bud Oven" whose father is a hippie type with a hydroponics lab. At NO POINT did I see the implications there. I find pot disgusting, so it never enters my mind. Oh well. I love the name and I think the potheads should be the ones to concede. They suck; I don't. Case closed.

In this arc, each character is given a balloon with their first name's initial on it. A few strips back, I discovered Tiffany and Autumn become T&A on balloons. In this strip, I originally had the two balloon initials reversed. Bud and Jacob... BJ. Yay! Also, two balloons beside each other look like a butt.

This whole strip was ruined by ambition. Instead of a generic character monologing in white space strip, I decided to spice it up. Since the game of chess becomes a big theme in the next batch of strips, I thought I'd make it look like Bud formulated his strategy by staring down at a chess set. BIG MISTAKE. Putting the games and balloons there was an attempt to avoid drawing Jacob's lower half. What it did was force me to screw up the angles on all subsequent panels - forcing me to draw BOTH boys sitting down, which is very difficult for me at this point. The "looking down at the board" panel is also ruined by my BJ balloon ass. Also, a close-up of a game box forces you to, y'know, draw the box. Drawing the box forces you to do some graphic design for a box that never should have been in the strip in the first place. Fail.

On the bright side, sometimes ambition does pay off. My Sky intro strip is wonderful in how it involves the Et swarm. (Although I had to go back in the next strip and awkwardly add an explaination as to why the kids suddenly dissapeared.) Drawing Ivy Pingo in a flower shirt was a whim that worked well enough. Overall, even when I feel I've screwed up an ambitious strip, I can just go back to the Precocious archives and see how far I've come.

The strips online have been drawn in three batches, and it's incredibly clear where the breaks fell once I went back to review them. Most of the time, an artist is way too close to the work to see it objectively, so my impression is based on the feeling I had at the time of the strip's drawing. Looking back, while I feel the same level of frustration with each strip, it's clear each batch is FAR superior to the last.

The down side of this is that, as I get better, my rate of improvement slows. Batch four (probably strips 31-44) doesn't seem to be that big of a step forward. Hell, I'll settle for competence. From here on out, things are going to get really complex. 45 is my trial run for the next batch. It's a strip that can be as simple or complex as I want. If I'm ambitious, it will have backgrounds and a nice comic background for the last panel. The goal is to do that stuff. I can make 45 work, that's a good sign that I'm ready to draw the last strips.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I did something! REWARD PLEASE.

Our long national nightmare may soon be in order. The final strips of the first arc have been scripted. Drawing can no commence! If I somehow gain superhuman strength, I can have the strip ready to officially launch for the new year! FOUR MONTHS LATE! WOOHOO! The arc will end up 62 strips long, which is frighteningly close to my original goal of 60. If I hadn't added strips 11 and 32 to the script I would have been dead on. (Both are clunky attempts to introduce more aspects of the Precocious world, but I figure it's best to get the clunkers out early when I can get rookie forgiveness.)

Like a jerky boyfriend who just had sex, after this minor triumph, all I want to do is roll over and fall asleep content - totally oblivious that doing someone properly involves satisfying both sides. I can be proud of finally finishing the writing, but without the drawings to go with it the relationship remains unfulfilled.

Tossing that creepy analogy aside like an abused girlfriend's self-esteem, we turn to the sketch! I've been on a roll with sketching this week and I have lots of well-done-if-generic sketches of various characters. Problem is, I'd have to stretch to find a coherent theme needed to justify a post.

Since this post was more of a happy declaration than a sketch analysis, all I wanted to find was a nice companion sketch. At first, I was going with a cheerful and adorable Autumn sketch, but then I found this one of Deirdre. What is often said when someone completes a task? "Good job! You get a cookie." Well, there you go!

This sketch was part of a failed attempt to draw Precocious parents at a dinner party thing. The only one that came out well was a bored Sydney Oven holding a glass of wine. My Sky Et sketches had eye issues and I still can't draw danged Harvey Linkletter right. Deirdre here was also a reject because I felt bad for her. Not only did she get an unflattering outfit (it's her style, but still...) but the sketch was an experiment in drawing her body type. Deidre is more curvy than the rest of the moms, but that's hard to capture at this point. She either ends up with the generic adult share, or I go overboard and chunk her up to Soren levels. Thanks to the miracle of Photoshop, I was able to digitally thin her down at bit. I'm not saying this is her correct size, as it's more of a Lisa Simpson's fish stick thing after Photoshop, but it's good enough. (I don't need to clarify that, do I? Burned on the outside and raw on the inside = balance through extremes.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Technically, that is true. But really, it's a "same planet; different worlds" sort of thing. What I like about the supporting cast of Precocious is that each is designed as a foil to my susceptible main characters. (Tiffany, being invulnerable due to spaciness, is "countered" by Roddy, a general irritant.)

Autumn is the bad kind of gamer - one who uses play to determine status. Each match is life or death because honor and social standing is at stake! She's been spoiled by a former life in which she dined on the weak and normal of a public school system. Now that she's among peers, it's natural that she'll test them to see where she stands.

Unfortunately for Autumn, she's the big loser in all of the intro arcs. The defeat that smarts the most is the one to Max. How can you compete with a person whose personality is so kind and innocent that competition means nothing to him? Autumn cannot comprehend how a person with Max's power - he has money, brains and superior strength - would never use it to push others around. Max thinks of Autumn as a good friend. Just like Ignatz throwing Bricks at Krazy Kat, Max's obliviousness only serves to make Autumn try harder to get him.

Bud has a nice thing going in Sapphire Lake. He's among like-minded jerks. They fight and war and joke about, but all do it with a spirit of fun! They can form all the supervillain unions they want, but in the end they're just playful in a convincing mean mask.

This is where Dionne comes in. She's *so* much better at the evil game than the rest of them, and she mops the floor with kids whenever she comes around. Bud, who is used to being the center and having control over his universe, is completely muted by the stronger predator. By the end of his visit to Dionne's in the pilot arc, Bud's reduced to the foolish straight man character. Later on, when he's about to lose the war before it begins, Dionne is the one that taunts him. Of course, just like with Autumn and Max, there is also a bit of attraction here. Unlike Autumn and Max, who are completely different, Bud and Dionne's connection is based on their similarities. One's greatest foe can be a great ally as well. (If you survive the partnership.)

The reason this one is holiday themed is because I decided to draw Bud wearing a coat instead of usual vest. Well, 'tis the season! I had an excuse to give Bud a hat *and* it allowed me to put Dionne in an ironic angel outfit!

Jacob, the pushover of the group, is the natural prey of Suzette, whose powerless feeling led her dominate whenever she gets the opportunity. All her perceived oppression is easily transferred to the hapless sidekick. Suzette is more than happy to beat up on someone her own size. Jacob is too nice (chivalrous?) to put up a fight. All the characters lead Jacob into doom, but Suzette does so with the most violence! Originally, the drawing was going to be an appropriate pose of Suzette dragging Jacob off someplace, but that proved too hard to draw so Suzette's hand was erased from Jacob's elbow. Instead of changing it to Suzette dragging Jacob on a leash, I went with the cop-out and mimicked the Bud/Dionne drawing.

If you're looking at all the images, you can see the battle I wage with cuteness proportions. Autumn and Max are a decent shape for now. Bud and Dionne resemble my former ways of drawing taller characters. (I shouldn't say "former," since it's more like the current habit I am trying to break - and it's still my default if I don't pay attention.) Jacob and Suzette are the Peanuts-ish big head approach I am trying to adopt - although maybe not that severe. Proportion is *my* nemesis.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How do you do that?

Today was a wasted day. Little to no construction meant my usual alarm clock didn't break my sleep cycle in the normal. I HAD TO DESTROY MY SLEEP CYCLE MYSELF! Every time I got up this morning, I ended up back asleep soon after. Didn't get out of bed until 1pm. Go me!

Anyway, no mountains shall be moved and no great feats shall be undertaken. Today I devote myself to catching up on TV and DVDs. Tomorrow, the world?

My offering today is Tiffany joining me in violating many laws of rationality. I destroy my life and body; she stacks blocks in strange ways. Then again, physics could be her friend.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Blue Period

With one sketchbook done, it's time to christen the new one!

Ok, so maybe it's not "new" new. The two Bud sketches were done on the 1st when I was trapped here and my sketchbook as in DC. As my trusty pencil was also in DC, the only mechanical pencil around was the one with the dark blue lead - a type I tried by soon found utterly unscannable. Then pencil sat around just in case and I figured it might be fun to make page one a blue affair.

The official start of the new sketchbook came with the Roddy army, done last night and today. Roddy is kinda hard to draw, since getting him slightly off makes him look like a Jacob/Max hybrid... which is bad news, since Roddy is a kitty. That's the consequence of the similar fluffpoints hairstyle. (I toyed with changing it up, but I'm sticking with the slightly-muted Jacob pattern at the moment.) I'm still scared to death of inking him regularly. I'll have to be inventive.

The shaded Roddy was just for style and practice. Here's the sketch all alone:

Parting with such sweet sorrows

I suppose I can call this latest completed sketchbook the stress book. A heaping bowl of crazy was poured onto these pages. With hope, none of it shows. I want stress to embolden me and reinforce my desire for success, not make me draw sad character over and over.

This sketchbook took a little over two months to complete, which is a good pace for me. One-month books mean I'm spending all my time sketching and not being productive. Three-month books may indicate I am not working hard enough. Two is just right. (I do hope to become a three-monther when I grow more productive.)

First up is the typical one actual art sketch. I believe the night I sat down and did this sketch I had a specific goal in mind for drawing. This was definitely not the goal. Oh well.

Before I did the color Bette sketches, I had played with her in the sketchbook. The first colored pencil was based off of one of these sketches. The right sketch is me starting to think about the panel in which she delvers her first line. It's a good sign that I feel I'm that close to getting the comic officially launched that I am starting to think about panel treatments.

In every sketchbook, sometimes you draw a character but the sketch doesn't fit in the current post. These are the best-of almost-posted sketches of the post-Thanksgiving drawing session.

These three were tinier sketches I thought I could salvage. The Jacob and Autumn were rejects from the "awkward moments" post sketch. Tiffany was a few pages before, which explains why her treatment is noticeably different.

I had more sketches I thought I could share, but I tossed all those that would not fit in a group shot. That's the dedication I have to you all. Oh well! This sketchbook is now officially at rest and I'm on to the next one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Chrispmastime again!

Oh, the pun is pain! I was tempted to save this sketch for the sketchbook postmortem post (probably coming tomorrow) but I needed to kill some time. See, it's hard to watch an insanely complex show with a bajillion characters while a drill constantly runs above your head. I have to wait until they're gone. Also, this gives me a chance to preach about personal theology, so yay!

Technically, this announcement is a week late. Chrispmas runs from December 8th to March 24th. (Or, my mother's birthday to my birthday.) Epic holiday, eh? The idea is to reduce stress by giving folks a large window for gift delivery. Sure you can stress over a gift and do a cheap buy to have something before the 25th, OR you could wait for inspiration to strike and give a great gift when the opportunity presents itself. Similarly, if you're stocking up for a gift-giving blitzkrieg on the 25th, mellow out! Why not give a gift when you have it? In my world, holding onto a gift because it's not close enough to Christmas is a *great* way to ensure the future giftee will acquire the same item for themselves. Whoopsy doopsy!

I like gifts to have a personal flair to them. You find something that is tied to an old in-joke or fills a need you know your friend/relative has. Those gifts are as fun to give as they are to receive! (I still love my Darkwing Duck shirt, Dana!) Problem with that, of course, is that you need a level of familiarity to figure out what the perfect gift shall be. The friends I gift to have been busy and largely unavailable - and my epic stays in DC just makes it worse. It's awful, but I have no idea what to give people for Chrispmas. I just haven't had the face time these past few months that is needed to gague gift need. Thankfully, religion comes to the rescue! Chrispianity: The laziest of all major religions. (Why, most followers have no clue they're Chrispians at all!)

For the record, I make no promises for epic gifting. Little things can bring the most joy! Picking up the tab for a nice meal brings with it good fun and great conversation. (Cooking a fun meal for/with friends can also work.) Grabbing that video game someone talks about wanting by never seems to go buy is kind act of enabling courtesy. Sure, the *best* gifts are ones that fill a need the giftee didn't know they had, but those winners can't come every year like clockwork. For me, I'd much prefer the generic gift card to a forced gift. I hate leaving my house so buying goods online is fun times. Most Chrispians should be of like mind.

Cash is still not an option, however. While the "get it yourself" apathy is nice and Chrispian, the giving part comes in procurement. Even gift cards means the gifter chose a suitable store for the giftee. Cash only works as a gift when it's a gift from a family member to one of a younger generation or when it's a company's holiday bonus.

The noise seems to have died down (for now) so I'm going to stop proselytizing and get back to The Wire.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The copyright info is in Franklin Gothic again!

That means I'm home! (It's Impact or Rockwell when I'm on the road.)

There will be little unwinding here in the immediate future, unfortunately. After a month of being converted to an animal/idiot/both sanctuary, my studio needs to be set up anew - a daunting task for someone as mentally drained as I.

Let's do the rundown. Moron brother has entered his 922nd consecutive day of being "sick" when asked to do work, so my grand welcome home came in lots of heavy lifting with garbage and a trip to Costco for the heavy lifting of garbage-to-be. Moron brother apparently lost one of the packages containing an order from, so I might have to fight the system to replace the lost goods in my future. Moron brother's definition of cleaning is, "move stuff from one surface to another surface around the corner," so you can guess what my room is like right now. Moron brother was also force to move back home, so all this stuff is strew about, adding much to the ambiance here. Moron brother's irresponsibility with my mother's credit card has forced our family to cancel Christmas to deal with the debts he's accumulated. Man, life SUCKS over here. I wonder if there's one common element that is causing all this dysfunction...

Tonight my plan is simple: Focus my stress into an eating disorder (the fat, unsexy one), break out the alcohol my brother hasn't consumed yet (he consumed a bottle of whiskey and tequila, both purchased by me, while here), and devote my life to TV on DVD. I have many options! I watched Lost season 1 while in DC, and season 4 was in the packages waiting for me, so I could continue and watch the new three seasons back to back to back. Black Friday was good to me in that I got all of Battlestar Galactica on DVD for half price, so I could start on that again. I have the first three discs of The Wire season 2 from Netflix FINALLY! The system failed me and sent the last discs first, so only now do I get to watch in order. Mom bought me the John Adams series on DVD as a gift, so that's there as well. Basically, I'm set for a piece of performance art wherein I will be playing the role of a shut-in.

As for the SKETCH, which has been ignored so far, I was feeling really sick last night and couldn't stop drawing... happy characters? Ok, whatevs. Most of drawings, being done through fever and fatigue, were crap and incomplete - but the Jacob one was close enough that I could fix the major errors (proportions) with Photoshop. The book is my joke on his corny smile. Anyone worth their salt should get the reference. If you don't, WHY DIDN'T YOU COME OF AGE IN THE 90'S LIKE EVERYONE ELSE!?!?!

Update edit: Amazon had agreed to replace my lost package. Yay! I eschewed DVDs for DVR and I'm watcing the Survivor finale/reunion. (Any non-Matty, non-Susie winner is fine by me. Sugar totally should have won, though.) I think I will go Wire after this, since Netflix must miss me by now! The goal is to drink myself into submission and stay up as late as possible so I sleep through the workers tomorrow. (Re-edit: Yes, I realize drinking myself into a stupor is not conducive to watching the ultra-complex The Wire, but I AM A GENIUS! My brain may be smart even when addled by CLASSY LIQUEURS! Or... I could watch the braindead Heroes episode I missed while in DC.

The third dimension is the worst

When working in a flat medium, showing depth can at times be damned difficult.

If I point my finger directly at you, all you see is a hand floating in front of me, as the rest of the arm is blocked. You know the arm is there, since you just saw it go up into the pointing motion. (Imagine the Donald Sutherland Body Snatches point here.) In a flat picture, you don't see the past of the figure - all you get is what you are given. Sure, chances are there's an arm behind that hand, but you can't be sure!

Worse is foreshortening, when the laws of perspective kick an artist's ass. If arm swings side to side, that's easy since it's the same length no matter the pose. If said arm begins swinging back and forth, things get dicey. Shading helps in most media; but what if one is working with something not conducive to shading... like pen and ink? Without lots of detailed crosshatching, an arm extending into the foreground looks like a strange, malformed appendage. The artist has to be an expert inker (I'm not) or pray the reader figures out what things look odd. For someone at my skill level, this means a lot of somewhat robotic, flat poses. Straight arms go out or down, as any change in depth looks like a mutation. Bent arms are drawn so the viewer can see the proper arm length - even if foreshortening is called for.

Traditional laws of perspective don't always work in cartooning. In motion, body parts get hidden by other body parts all the time, but we know they'll be back. In a static cartoon image, the natural look becomes unnatural. The cartoonist has to tweak perspective to let the viewer know the missing parts are there.

For faces, it's like folding the hidden side of the face out. If a character has bangs, you show the bangs for both sides of the face in the drawing, even though the far side should be hidden from view. Same with ears; the far ear would be hidden or appear as a small point over the hair, but a cartoonist has to draw the second ear fairly prominently. When these things are analyzed, it is horribly incorrect - but to the eye it looks more acceptable than the technically correct drawing.

Once again, tonight started with an impromptu colored pencil drawing. This time, the subject was the supposedly-elusive Sydney Oven. Considering how many times she's shown up on this blog, I think she's losing her mystique.

The pose I picked is one that involves a mass of perspective faith. I was challenging myself to let go and see if it worked.

Should the right ear be drawn or left off? With the Scottish fold thing, it means the ears are often borderline in that they might or might not be seen. It's far too easy to draw in the hint of the back ear, even when it shouldn't be there, to give artistic confirmation that it is indeed there. There's also the issue of the visible ear, which is presented in a flat manner so I could easier draw the earrings. This is incorrect, but does it work visually?

Sydney has short hair that is usually pulled back in a small ponytail. Again, I feel a great need to draw the ponytail because otherwise people might assume her breezy Bud-like part is all there is. I had been towing with lengthening her hair to get around the issue, but sometimes there is still no way the ponytail would be seen. Like the ear, the ponytail is hidden.

I had passed two tests at that point, but I just could not let that hidden arm stay hidden. Putting the fist playfully touching the shoulder is one thing, as a reader should realize the arm is hidden by the body and jacket, but I was not content to leave it alone. Instead I drew a hint to the rest of the arm, which was meant to show the fist got to the shoulder via elbow and not mutation. Problem is... the unnatural arm length is now put in play. I should have hidden the sleeve or allowed the arm to be hidden completely.

Sydney's left appendages show the good and choke job of foreshortening. Her left arm looks perfectly natural as it implies a bit of depth to the limb. The leg, however, is where I got scared. In a pose that is twist, I drew the leg as if it was on a two-dimensional plane. It should have tapered a bit to indicate the foot was extending into the background. Instead, I was forced to draw a "wall" into the background to hint that the awkward position might be due to her foot resting against an object. The other left also became a straight up and down affair due to my perspective fuck up. It could have also shown dynamic movement, but instead it had to be static to show she was twirling in place rather than moving through space.

It was good practice to take on a sketch like this. This was also supposed to be a test of coloring, but that became rather secondary. For that, I'll say she wasn't originally meant to have red hair - I used the wrong pencil - but it's not too bad and I may go with it.

I hope I explained well enough why this drawing was far more complex that it appears. Almost every element was challenge due to the conflict between what was technically correct and what was visually correct. Some treatments were successes and some ventured into hieroglyphics territory. People know the ancient Egyptian portraiture style involved rendering everything flat and front-facing even if the figure was in profile, right? It's somewhat comforting to know the same cartooning tricks used now have been around for thousands of years. It's not failure - it's historical homage!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Awkward moments; treasured memories

I wrap up my current stretch in DC as a complete wreck. Stress has taken its toll on me. I've got zits. I've gained weight. I am low on sleep. I might be getting sick. I desperately need a shave. I'm awesome!

That's not to say this hasn't been a positive expirience. I'm glad I could help, as little as I could, and I *did* get some art done while here. After some recharging, I'll come back again to get things right this time. I'm starting to get selfish over here - hiding away in my cave and eating at odd hours - and that's fairly useless outside of moral support. When I get my energy back, I'll do what I should be doing now. I'm going to get my grandmother to tell more stories and just give her a partner in conversation. I'll have a better grasp on what I need for art, so my studio will be better prepared. (Needed: More paint and a mechanical pencil sharpener!) I'll do more around the house, even if I'm clumsy at chores. My grandmother has a 50-year head start and learning the ins and outs of this place - and things must be done properly - so I fumble around like an idiot most of the time. Next time I'm here, I might even cook a decent meal. I'm 0-for-2 so far. (The thing about cooking for an Alzheimer's patient is that he eats with ZERO politeness.)

Anyway, I need a recharge. I need to turn my sarcastic awesome back into actual awesome.

Baby, I've got an eight-inch Monster!

You know you want it.

After drawing a tiny Ms. Monster, idle sketching tonight turned into one of the biggest Precocious figures I've done. Her coloring is still improbable, she's too tall and her work clothes are bland even for intentional blandness - but, as I had no intention of drawing her or working in colored pencil at all tonight, I will happily take what I get!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Skeptical Cat is Fraught With Skeptism

"What do you mean, 'let's go run errands and do dinner'? Do you not realize it is 4pm on a Friday? In DC? During the holiday season?"

In a related story, I am now traumatized for life... which is impressive, since it's hard to find a part of me that hasn't already been traumatized for life.

(Original LOLcat.)

SHE'S OVER 9000!

With all sketches, there are some errant lines when you are roughing out the size and shape of the head and body. When drawing this Dionne sketch, I noticed a few errant lines seemed to be on the same path, so I connected them. then I connected the other curves in the drawing to create a shape behind her. Then I made more lines. Then... well, she's as surprised as the rest of us to discover herself inside a chi ball.

Then again, if *anyone* was OVER NINE THOUSAAANNNNDD, it *would* be Dionne.

In related news, I just *now* watched the original clip of this thing on YouTube. That's one of the amazing things about the internet: You can be fluent in geek memes without ever seeing/knowing the source. (Shoop da woop?) Granted, geek memes are like sausage and law; watching their formation is a disgusting and soul-deadening experience.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lessons learned via aftermath

I decided to try another colored pencil sketch and the character of the day was the dreaded teacher, Bette Monster! Mwa ha ha!

This a rare casual shot. As we all know, seeing one's teacher out in the wild is a frightening experience. The whole authoritarian mystique is destroyed. Bette sometimes shows up at the Et house to hang out. The conflict has clearly left her psyche shattered.

In a class of genius psychopaths, Bette has learned the best she can do is let the kids go and try to nudge them in the right direction. Direct opposition results in war wounds. Using their personalities against them: Sadistically satisfying!

This was the first attempt at coloring, and only when I finished the drawing did I look up what collies actually look like. I have the coloring wrong! My god, if we can't trust walking, talking, clothed cartoon animals to have natural coloring... what can we believe in?

Just as I simplified my calico (Tiffany) and tabby (Sky), I'm going to have to let my inappropriate collie coloring to stand. That, or I can just not do my typical hatching in drawings to indicate shading in Bette. I guess we'll find out when I get to the comics.


I AM A HUMAN BE - oh, shit!

As kids we watch a LOT of crap cartoons. We're little idiots who have yet to develop any sense of taste at all, nor have we lived long enough to recognize cheap gags and shoddy plotting when we see it. All of Hanna-Barbera was based on this principle. Only in hindsight do we realize how horrible those cartoons were, and then we start counting how many brain went unstimulated and cry. I used to love the Alvin and the Chipmunks moving, for cripe's sake!

But there is some stuff that you KNOW is wrong even then. The shining example of a cartoon so fucked up that even my ignorant fool of a child self knew has moved far beyond the crazy shit border was the Pound Puppies movie. Why, yes, it *was* a Hanna-Barbera production! The premise of the movie was that the Pound Puppies could be turned back into normal dogs by some magic or something. Hold on, I'm on the internet! I can find out more...

Research on Wikipedia tells me it's a magic artifact that gives them the "puppy power" to communicate with humans and, presumably, rip off Scrappy Doo. Another device de-anthropomorphized them into regular dogs who were evil. The climax happens as the sass-mouthed Pound Puppies go up against their own friends in generic canine form.

That's fucked up.

Listen, cartoon people, you can't have dogs running around on their hind legs, talking with people, singing songs, wearing clothes and acting as cartoon characters generally act... and then made them DOGS that run around on all fours barking like the mindless wastes that are real-live dogs. It is unnatural and wrong! Nose Marie should not be prancing along like a southern belle one minute and shitting on the rug the next!

When working with cartoon animals, one can only use so many species jokes before things go into the realm of the creepy. When Woodstock happily chowed down on turkey during the Peanuts Thanksgiving special, I was creeped out. The reason I kept my comic to doggies and kitties is because sentience can be a minefield. If every animal is capable of humanity, then characters casually eating hamburgers becomes some sick cannibalism. D.C. Simpson got around his love for tapping Noah's Ark in character design by making all his characters vegetarian, but still crossed the line over and over in Ozy and Millie. When Timulty, dressed as a knight and riding Millie like a horse, misspoke and threatened to "spay" Ozy instead of slay him, that made Millie's constant desire for a pony look downright well-adjusted by comparison.

When writing the first day of school story for Precocious, there is a strip where Suzette chases after Bud to deliver a heaping bowl of violence. Originally Bud shouted, "Down, girl!" The extension of that is, of course, "bad dog!" I decided not to go to that well in strip #3 and the final line has him screaming, "Ow! Ow! Ow! Bad touch!" That's *also* got some creepy connotations, but it's in the general dark humor section and not at the Animal-Human Confusion Ranch.

Everyone has their own tolerance level for such things. For instance, I think having Tiffany bat around a ball of yarn is just goofy enough to work. Roddy crossing one's path does tend to bring misfortune, but the black cat crossing one's path line would never occur in the Precocious world. Similarly, joking about Autumn in a hen house is rather confusing if you think about it. What would it be in Precocious; leaving a fox unattended in a KFC? Now it's incredibly racist!

But tonight I was watching Lost on DVD and that ugly lab Vincent was getting screen time. Vincent was walking around with his ugly tongue hanging out of his mouth and the usual dog expression, so I drew a canine mouth with its tongue hanging out. Soon, it turned into Autumn acting like a domesticated dog - which is even MORE inappropriate because foxes are not domesticated animals! She's doing the sit/shake/beg routine and I find it highly disturbing.

Man, I rambled for far too long about this. I intended to just mock Pound Puppies and run, but my sleeping pill has been slow to kick in. Oh well, at least I stopped myself before I went into the COMPATIBLE SPECIES essay again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fate Favors the Adorable!

Since it's easier than webcammming a 3'x3' painting-in-progress, I will use this sketch to share my joy over completing the writing of the OFFICIAL first Precocious storyline! It is surprisingly Suzette-heavy, but I'm fine with that. It's Autumn's first day of school... which means Roddy is on a mission to save her from the other crazies! Spoiler alert: He fails.

The storyline ends with Autumn explaining to her class why she wears her schoolgirl outfit. As should be expected, it involves manipulation, combat and general life-or-death situations. I'm very proud of this. Another thing I'm proud of is having their teacher, Ms. Monster, openly attempt to traumatize Autumn at the first opportunity. I am such a well-adjusted person.

Oh yeah, it looks like I will finally be back in Winchester Sunday evening. It's been so long, I probably won't even recognize my own house. Oh, that's right, I won't! Kitchen renovations have entered the depressing endgame and my fucktard brother moved into my room - with the stinky, stupid, awful dogs - while I was gone! Oh, it will be good to be back. If you want to contact me, I'll be in the county jail after the murder spree.

Anyway, I'm assuming my few friends check this blog every few days so they can see what I'm up to and because they miss having me around... and they don't just skim over things before seeing me so they can claim they read it. I'm feeling isolated and invisible here - and under considerable stress - so I'd like to think someone is out there to see my words and care about where I am. Again: I am such a well-adjusted person.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Sell My Soul

It's time for more HOT flower action!

Here is my "finished" poinsettia painting. Hotel walls everywhere are about to be classed up!

And here is flower painting part 2: Poppies or some shit. I dunno, they are made of plastic so there's no guarantee they are proper flower replicas. Plastic flower taxonomists could be fucking with me. I just don't know. (Plastic Flower Taxonomists: Bad name for a band, or BADDEST name for a band?) As you can see, I got halfway through the the first treatment of the leaves before Monday Night Football got awesome and distracted me. After that, I had to hurry and put the entire studio away so the cleaning lady that came today would have surfaces to clean.

At the time of this writing, I have been too lazy to pull the art supplies back out from their storage places and set 'em up again. Chances of me doing any more painting tonight: Slim to none.

Oh well, this just means more sexy sketchbook time. Can you believe I went two days without drawing a cartoon animal? Earlier I was bullying my grandmother into keeping a diary and writing childhood stories when I found myself filling the notebook I brought up for her dictation with Jacobs. THE HUNGER RETURNS!

Edit: Fuck the hunger, I watched a movie instead and all I doodled was some ART thing. I wanted cartoon animals and got modernism. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS!

Monday, December 8, 2008

This post will pillage your house and rape your women

When I decided to work on painting, I asked my grandfather what I should paint. He suggested painting a viking ship. Not only has this always been his default answer, but a magazine was on the table and open to an article about viking ships. Surprise!

I did my part and made him some sketches from the pictures in the article, but they're more inclined to wind up on the fridge than on canvas. See, it's kinda hard to take a two-inch sketch and blow it up to three feet by three feet and retain the technical aspects.

So, MORE FLOWERS! The first flower painting is "done" in that I won't work on it anymore, so a second has begun. I will be working on it later tonight and will try to get photos via webcam of both to share tomorrow.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Your wall hungers for my product

I am painting flowers! I AM PAINTING GODDAMN FLOWERS! It's... well, actually, it's kind of refreshing. I made a vow to do one painting during my visit stay, as I have access to my aunt's supplies, and today I woke up with the "OMG I HAVE TO PAINT" feeling. It's rare, so one must run with it.

After waking, I sat up to see a bowl of plastic poinsettias sitting at the foot of my bed. Good enough! So far it's been a nice change of pace. The canvasses here are giant, so I'm going for the family-friendly flower painting on the wall sell-out approach. Clearly, my personality forces its way through no matter what subject I choose. The limited selection of colors meant I gave up trying to get the color I wanted and just used whatever was next. All the green is too bright or too light. There is no black, so I have to use purple. Whatever, man, a limited palette is actually rather freeing.

I have no idea how this will turn out. Will I sharpen the lines and add dept or go for my normal flat and colorful complexity? Who knows. It's time to get back to work and see!

This has been a makeshift day all around. I'm painting with what I have and taking photos by rearranging lamps and tossing my laptop around.

This is my angry face

I was thinking about cracking open a bottle of wine all evening. I didn't, but clearly I must be mentally drunk. MIND OVER MATTER, PEOPLE!

I should have taken my sleeping pill an hour ago. If I was a livejournal douchebag, I would predict my mood would be set to "sluggish" tomorrow morning. Look, folks, I've already fucked around on Facebook, my webcam and a blog tonight - any further douchebaggery would be lethal. Oh well, the world will have to do without my self-absorbed postings about which commercial jingles anger me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blue is gray. War is peace. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

I didn't feel like working on the strip today (maybe later) and I had this new pad of Bristol board with a small selection of colored pencils. I've been wanting to see how Sky looked with her conceived gray tabby coloring. I didn't bring any gray pencils with me; nor could I find a pencil sharpener, which further limited the options. Fuck it, light blue is good enough!

Gene was added for balance and practice. Now that I look at him, I think his hair color needs to be changed. The joke is just a bit *too* obvious at this point. I guess I can play with various hair colors... or just continue to work in ink and ignore color completely.

Friday, December 5, 2008

My god, what have I done!?

The thing about designing unique characters with their own set of physical quirks is that, when one is not paying attention, doodles end up being some unfortunate hybrid that don't match anyone!

It's all about the fluffiness! My cartoon characters all have some sort of fluffiness represented in their cheeks. Some fluff points are rounded, some are sharp. If I'm not sketching with any purpose, I let the pencil decide what I'll do. I'll draw the basics of a face and then decide which character is being drawn. Buuuut, the problem with lazy drawing is muscle memory seems to even things out and make me draw a face that is between the pointy and rounded. It doesn't match up well with anyone, so I either have to force it to be someone, use the eraser to correct the sketch to death or draw a random character.

This sketch went wrong early. It clearly wasn't a Bud, and the face was too masculine to be turned into Tiffany... so I decided to draw the "missing link" character between the two families. Shortly after I started I realized the missing link is not supposed to look like the kids, but like their FATHERS. D'oh. So, hey, fuck it, LET'S MAKE A CREEPY HYBRID OF MY MAIN CHARACTERS! It's highly disturbing.

To blather on, let me explain the subtleties of cheek fluff:

The general rule is kitty cheeks are rounded and doggy cheeks are pointy. It's the degree of the point that subtly differentiates between the characters.

Bud: His cheeks are the most obvious, as they are very round. The fluff *should* point down.

Autumn: Her cheeks are pointy and wider. They can droop a bit depending on her mood, but the normally pointy personality means normally pointy cheeks. Over time, I've scaled her cheeks back for cuteness, but we'll see how that plays.

Jacob: In theory his cheeks are the same as Autumn's, but his varies far more often. This is partly because it's somewhat easy to force my accidental hybrids into Jacobs, and partly because Jacob's impressionable nature softens his facial features.

Tiffany: This is probably impossible for anyone but be to notice, but Tiffany's cheeks and jaws are drawn with a different motion than the rest. In theory, she is supposed to have an angular jaw with smaller-than-average round points. In practice, they look like every other kitty's cheeks. Both lack of technique and affinity for cuteness bring her more into the norm. This does explain why I keep screwing up Tiff's jawline, at least.

Suzette: Of all the doggies, her cheeks are the most rounded. The motions for the basics of Suzette's face closely resemble Bud's. Suzette is also a good default for when I screw up a face, since the bangs and ears override everything.

Dionne: Her face should be halfway between Bud and Suzette. Since I need more cheek space for spots, the roundness helps.

Max: His cheeks should have Autumn's width and Jacob's slight rounding. I should note here that all my best Max drawings are accidental and that it's very hard for me to draw him on cue.

Roddy: Initially, the hybrid cheeks were meant for Roddy, but I'm starting to sour on it. If I'm not careful, Roddy's face looks fat because when a black outline is filled with black it stops being an outline and just becomes thickness. I'm trying to get around this by drawing him with the Tiffany technique. I really won't know what works best until I've put him down in ink a few more times.

If you're still reading at this point, I'm impressed. I find it fascinating that so much thought was put into what are nearly imperceptible variations in features - but this might only because I find *myself* so fascinating.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I cannot draw a newspaper from memory

Soren Pingo: Newspaper reader. I dunno... are wry comments always funnier when said by a newspaper reader? Now that I think of it, a future storyline is partly based around Soren's daily newspaper rituals. Librarians love reading... but is reading a newspaper when surrounded by books cheating? Maybe it's like flirting with the floozy checkout girl just because she smiled at you and then going home to your beloved wife. Maybe I'm thinking too hard about sexualized word delivery units.

So where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to see if I could do another family portrait with the Pingos because I haven't drawn many Sorens. This quickly failed as I somehow couldn't draw a proper Autumn without soiling the page with my drool. Ok, that sounds really wrong, especially after a paragraph where I implied newspapers have loose morals and inclination to naughty deviation. What I'm saying here is that I finally drew a worthwhile Autumn and then did one of those "about damn time" sounds - which resulted in my spitting all over the page. Maybe this is why my friends never invite me to parties.

Portrait failed, I tried to draw a Soren just for practice. As the title of this post states, I couldn't figure out the proper newspaper pose, so I gave him the blank cheer expression that he would have had in the posed family portrait. Somehow, with this guy, it's appropriate no matter the context.

Soren is also supposed to be a bit overweight, but I'm not sure how well that came across. It's surprisingly difficult to get these weight subtleties with the characters at this point. Soren is chunky. Deirdre is curvy. Sky is skinny and compact. Ivy is to be the moderately-slender control case. None of that really comes across with the strip yet. I'm not even getting into Harvey Linkletter, since I'm still not sure what proportions are going on with that guy.

Soren was named after the Dane that came to America and started my Paulsen family, by the way. Just FYI. (Edit long after the fact: Turns out he was Soren Hansen, but his daughter still bred Paulsens!)

The Et Family! *click* *click*

What can I say, crazy families are on my mind.

Drawing something like this is a MAJOR challenge, since every character (well, not the twins) are different heights and sizes. I can't claim the shot is any good at all, but anyone remotely close to accurate is wild success at this point.

I still love how varied the Et family is, even if it means more trouble than it's worth when cartooning. Gene is a buff-colored kitty, Sky is a gray tabby, Tiffany is a calico, Michaelangelo is an orange tabby, Frida is a tortoiseshell and the twins are white. This counters an earlier Et family breakdown, but now that all of them have been drawn in the comic, the current roster is more or less official. (I can still alter colorings if I want, but thinking of doing the strip in color makes me cry in fear.)

Oh, yeah. In case you're wondering, eight new strips are done (nine if you count the Black Friday one) and progress continues. 24 strips to go before Precocious BECOMES REAL!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In most comics, no one ages

Ok, so I've been working on the comic these past few days, which means precious few sketches to share and I have to scramble for content. Since I do want to average a post a day, as this is the only forum I feel I have right now, I need to figure out something. The other stuff I've been dealing with is not what I'd prefer to blog about. First, this is primarily an art blog for me to show off and work through my ideas. Second, I try my best not to be *that blogger* with the self-absorbed bullshit. Third, I don't like sharing things unless it's me-centric. Not only is it ego, but I'm not comfortable with discussing loved ones in too much detail. So many fools forget what a public place the internet is.

What you see here is something I fished out of the trash. Today everyone else was out and I was alone to take care of my grandfather, who was up and about more than usual. Since I had my pencil with me, I did a small sketch on a scrap of paper found in the desk drawer to talk about cartooning. It was something quick and lame, so I folded the paper up and tossed it. That's when I saw what the scrap of paper was. You can write the rest of this post yourself, so I'm going to take my leave before fully becoming that blogger.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best panel I ever drew...

Now that I am "settled" in DC for a week or so, I finally have time to do some work. Lots of inking tonight, with two new strips finished so far. One, as you can infer, was the a breeze to complete.

If only I could be minimalist all the time...