Bunny Trail

First order of business: got myself a name and a logo for my prototyping comic.

This is not the June 2021 cover. It’s a test. A mockup. Because the actual covers will feature this background, but with appropriate characters frolicking about. But this is a significant step toward that, AND it tells me what I need to know in my design process. And I think it’s nice to look at.

Captain’s Log 0210416.105: It Could Be a Bit More Awesome

Thanks to a retreat last weekend with my best friend, I realized that I’ve been focusing heavily on what is pragmatic in my constant quest for a golden workflow road.

No project is worth doing unless it’s full of awesome. Now, all of my projects have that potential, but I have not been specifically seeking that potential out. I’ve been looking for a way to do cheap and easy, instead of investing time.

I’m not sure how this revelation (which I need to rediscover from time to time) is going to shape projects in the immediate future. Awesome Moments itself may resume being my focus on the other side of the Weekend. However, we shall see.

In the mean time, here’s a workflow for making HD animations using Spriter & Krita:

Step 1: create prototype graphics at half size. Be careful about form and posture, and sloppy about everything else. The initial version of a character, especially if I intend to use character maps, should have out-jutty things designed to ensure each part takes up as much space as it ever likely will.

Here’s the Solar Guard, created for that exact purpose:

Step 2: Export at 4X size (that is, 2x the intended size; 4x the ‘sketch’ size) and animate in Spriter. Here, I am intending to shrink the graphic in Unity. By going to 4X size, I can allow for an amount of zooming without losing detail.

Step 3: Open the generated graphics in Krita and save them as *.kra files. Double the size once more, draw final quality art on new layers, then export it to a new skin folder at half size as png.

Apply skin in Spriter and see how it looks.

I may abandon shading on characters, in line with old cartoons where the backdrops were carefully painted and shaded, but the characters had flat coloring except in extreme situations. But I am content with this workflow and this art style.

I think after I’m done with Awesome Moments and in between books, I’m going to work on making a hand drawn game with Piqha. Maybe it’ll be an RPG. Maybe a platformer. Maybe I’ll work on both and see what happens. Maybe I’ll backburner Awesome Moments until my heart is in it again.

We’ll see what happens. But I need to feed my kid and the farm aminals.

Captain’s Log 0210312.064: A critical workflow lesson.

It’s Report Day. We got the cover art made:

Created puppets for the fallen serpent, and for the floating mountain/garden/ziggurat of Eden/New Jerusalem:

We also, in what is a super tedious process, made it through page 36 of transcribing the storyboards into Scribus. I’m becoming more and more familiar with the software, finding ways to make it behave. So that’s good. But this sucks and I never want to do it again.

This book is not the first book I’ve storyboarded, nor the last. Fortunately, most of the others are comic books, which wouldn’t use this process to begin with, and the exception is my Bestiary, which is still in tinker mode.

I settled on this method after my previous books.

Jump the Shark 1 was storyboarded on paper. Alphabeasts had no storyboard at all, just concept sketches for the characters. Death of Arthur was storyboarded on index cards. And Pirate Princess was written, with no illustrations, to test the Kids’ Pulp Formula.

The result was that for three books, I wrote to illustrations, and for the fourth, I illustrated to the writing. I was dissatisfied with both approaches. I felt I ought to write and illustrate at the same time, so that the words and pictures could be designed to support each other and edited at the same time. And thus I have done. In each case, I create a template with margin lines and some sample text at the target point size in Inkscape, then import this template into Krita:

Then I draw and write what I intend to draw and write in Krita. Krita’s text tools are not nearly so accurate or useful, though, so I do it with the knowledge that I’m just composing and positioning the text to get a rough idea of where it’s gonna go…

With the idea that for the first draft, I’ll import the storyboard image minus the text into Scribus, and type the text in. This is the step I’m on now in Awesome Moments 1.

Now, Scribus isn’t embedding the image data in the .sla document. It’s pulling it from disk. Which means when I finish the final quality image, I should be able to just save it over the storyboard image, and it will magically update in Scribus. Nice!

Problem is I can’t just copy and paste the text over from Krita to Scribus, and retyping everything is tedious as heck. I want to tear my hear out after two or three pages.

I think, henceforth, I shall be composing my storyboards IN Scribus. I’ll add the pages in the appropriate place, save a “storyboard image” that is nothing more or less than the template in the appropriate folder, then I’ll type the text into Scribus, and draw the art in Krita, saving over the template image as I go.

It is, alas, too late to do this for Awesome Moments 1. I am committed to see the drudgery through. But the pain will serve to strengthen the lesson.

Anyway, I become increasingly doubtful I’ll be ready to Kickstart even by the Equinox. I’m moving the target to April.

Tomorrow I have to do farmhand stuff during my normal creative block, and Sunday is for the Lord. I’ll try and make headway on the PDF draft today, and burn off my aggravation by sculpting things that will actually be useful for the campaign. But I have to allow that this may be the end of the progress for this week, and if I have more to show when I start up again on Monday, it’s a gift from God to me.

Frankly, the realization that I find this process tedious, and I could have composed the storyboards in Scribus from the very start is a gift.

A couple of notes

Got a new brush in the mail: a Princeton Round # 2 mini-detailer. The Windsor and Newton is more frizzy than an angora goat, and has been disposed of. At some point in the next few days, I need to create some big scene that I can illustrate with the tombows, the pentel, and the brush, so I can get a feel for the differences.

Spent yesterday tinkering on my RPG engine.

I finished out Tuesday by modelling Zoe, our puppet to play Eve and (probably) Mary and making a test drawing of the expulsion, which resulted in the above cartoon.

And just today, I tried shrinking the heads on the puppets to 80%. Because I always go overboard with the cartoon proportions.

Looks much better. It still looks cartoony enough for my tastes.

In real life, a person is 6.5 to 7 heads tall. Comic book or idealized proportions are usually around, what, 8 heads tall? According to this image I cribbed from Jesse White, 8.5 heads tall.

Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 9.07.20 AM

How do Clay and Zoe stack up with the 0.8 heads?

Three and change apiece. But again, I’m going out of my way to produce cartoon characters, not comic book characters.

So here’s the to-do list of next tasks:

  • Finish transferring the storyboard to the PDF
  • Sculpt an angelic dragon to play the Serpent of Eden.
  • Create a full page illustration in a finished style, for promotion purposes.
  • Create a reasonable facsimile of the cover.

These can be done in any order, as I feel like. All of them need to be done before I can launch the crowdfund, and none of them is dependent on any other (although modeling the Serpent opens up possibilities for both the illustration and the cover).

I’ve been focusing on the creative work because it’s more fun. E.g. the next thing I “want” to do is sculpt the serpent. The theory I gave on Monday is that I can do the busywork (transferring the PDF) any time. But if any time never comes, it never gets done.

Eh. Let’s make the serpent today. We’ll do a variation on this picture:

With the new proportions and the serpent in the middle for the cover. After all, a good way to think of book 1 is the Kings of Earth. Adam, Satan, and Christ, are the three entities who can reasonably claim to be King of the Earth.

I’ll try and schedule a block of busy work for this afternoon/evening and see how it goes before I decide to double down and finish the PDF during my prime creation hours.

Update

There’s a start.

Additional Update

That’ll do.

I’ve finished modelling Clay.

And I got a Pentel Pocket Brush in the mail. Left is the Pentel, right is the Tombows, using the Pentel to fill in the blacks.

The pocket brush affords me much of the same life that the Windsor & Newton did, but more controlled. I can almost, almost draw with it. I think there’s a small but serious chance that with practice, the pocket brush may become my favorite way to ink. I think there is a larger chance that I will continue to work with some combination of the pocket brush and the Tombows.

Here we are colored in.

Next tasks on the list:

  • Produce a page in the chosen style. Using just Clay, here, I can produce page 4 or 5 (or both).
  • Sculpt models for Eve and for the Serpent.
  • Finish transferring the storyboard graphics and 1st draft text over into Scribus. (We’ve barely started, but I made an executive decision to work on the sculpts because transferring pages over is busywork, and can be done when I’m creatively tapped out).
  • Compose the first draft of the the Kickstarter pitch
  • Create the draft Kickstarter campaign so I can begin designing the graphics needed to make it work.
  • Contact people willing or likely to help me publicize my campaign.

Obviously, sculpting a naked caricature of whatever I think is the standard of feminine beauty, or a freaking angel dragon, are the most fun things on the to-do list.

Captain’s Log 0210301.063

This is Clay. It’s his job to model for characters who, in my books, are going to be or resemble Christ (that is, in addition to Our Lord, Adam, David, probably Judah). Assuming I decide to go with this model. I may scratch it and start over, try and get proportions I would like better. I think I did okay with the face though.

May God forgive me for the caricature.

Work on Clay and other 3D sculpts will resume later, though. First thing’s first. I need to go through my storyboard, add a couple pages, and produce the test PDF.

The test PDF will have my storyboard low-res graphics, and my initial text. It’ll get sent off to the Amazon printer, so I can edit the book in physical form, as well as make sure the color choices “work”. Once I make a PDF for the test print, changing the length of the book is a Big Deal, so I need to add some bonus pages to give the document room to expand if it needs to.

That’s today’s big project. I should also get a new brush pen in the mail in the next couple of days, and a new paint brush, and I’ll need to pick a page to produce as a finished illustration both to test the pens, and have art for the crowdfund. The illustration producing process ideally also starts today, but is more likely to start tomorrow or later.

When I get a chance, I need to finish Clay. Give him hands, hair, an armature, and a wife.

Well, lads, this is it. Project of the moment is to fund Awesome Moments 1.

Dr. Eli Stump

Dr. Stump is the foremost expert on therians. He was well prepared for this life by his extensive life making Starnet videos detailing crazy theories about peak media franchises well before he got aboard the sleeper ship headed for Theria, and he doesn’t really care who knows it.

Old Sentinels say that once upon a time, Dr. Stump was a formidable man. That he’s let himself go in the past few years. But Dr. Stump does not talk about the glory days. He talks about therians. And if there’s something you need to know about therians, he almost certainly already knows it.

In search of style

Partway through tinkering with my bestiary, I made a transition. I began to feel like a more western cartoon style had begun to slip from the world, and desired to pull it back into my art. You can see it in the difference between these pictures:

My human, placed for size comparison, is roughly anime, or manga in on the left, and draws more from the font of Chuck Jones on the right.

Maybe it’s reading Asterix as cartoon research. Or watching Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry with my kid. But my personal cartoon style was forged, initially, by Looney Tunes, was refined by badass pictures of comic book superheroes, and was boiled down by video game graphics.

And now… now I feel like I want some of the original wellspring back in.

You can kind of see it in Awesome moments. My finished art looks like chiseled game characters with clear eastern influence, but my storyboards have bubble eyes like an ancient western character.

Jesse White, the guy who sold me on the Windsor and Newton Series 7 which I probably no longer use, was recently professing that we need a little more Chuck Jones and a little less weeb nonsense in our lives. He seems to have removed the offending tweet for whatever reason. I wish he hadn’t. I found the conversation helpful and clarifying. I am not opposed to anime or manga at all, but it solidified something I’d been considering for my own art.

So I’ve been doodling in various variations on what I would consider a more classical cartoony style. Drinking from the wellspring in my spare time.

Anyway, today is my “day off,” so I wasn’t permitted to work on my RPG. I really wanted to. I’m super hyped for that project at the moment. But, casting around for things to do, and not being allowed to do the one thing I wanted, I seized on my folder of study pieces. Art I find ’round the internet that represents some stylistic factor that I want in my own work, and therefore have saved to dissect. Figured I’d do a study.

And I saw this:

Obviously, not the Popeye house style. This is, I’m guessing, made in the style of Nintendo (Japanese, alas!) art back when the big N was trying to imitate Popeye back in their arcade days?

(For those who don’t know, a little bird tells me Nintendo tried to create a Popeye game and reskinned the characters when they couldn’t get the license. Popeye as the carpenter Jumpman, who would later be renamed Mario, Bluto as a gorilla, Olive as some dame…)

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOREVER: SATURDAY SUPERCADE: DONKEY KONG

I dunno. Something about this Popeye 64 DS art spoke to me. I had to try drawing Popeye, and then a couple of my own characters, in a facsimile of the style. So I gave it a few practice shots, and then produced this:

This feels like the right direction. I need to practice with it some more. Maybe do some sculpts in 3D, see if I can get some forms going I like.

The question is, if I push my art in this direction, what of my existing projects?

Well, my favorite Jump the Shark art already has this feel to it, to be frank.

That’s one reason I like it. It feels like I’m starting to consciously recognize things I’ve been unconsciously seeking for a long time.

But what about Awesome Moments, the project I will probably take up again in less than a week?

Well…

I don’t hate it. It feels a little odd, a little potentially disrespectful, and I’m super leery of that. But I kind of sort of actually like it.