Playing with widgets

WordPress has a widget that lets you overlap two pictures of the same size to get a drag and drop before and after, and I’m making this blog post purely to play with it.

Allright, let’s do it again.

This page will be useful to my proofreaders. Guys: in the Hat Trick comic, I plan to have two types of speech bubble. If you see a double border, I mean the final bubble to be white text on a black bubble. I goofed and did a heavy border instead of a double border on this specific page.

Last, but not least, I want to say a quick word about lettering.

I got the idea of putting the text into my storyboards so I can test text and picture together, rather than trying to compose — and edit — them separately. When I converted the process over to comics, my plan was to continue in the same manner, but to merely draw in the speech bubbles, and letter the comic in the PDF editor. I bought a license for Spinner Rack to give Hat Trick a unique, but multifaceted font. But: my printed ‘pencils’ now had letters, and on a whim, I tried hand lettering over them.

I love how expressive they are. I love how the sloppyness/messiness of them matches the impatience in my inking. Even if I don’t love that impatience itself.

Just for the record, I am not trying to match the shapes of the letters in the Spinner Rack font. This is my natural comic lettering style, developed when I was learning to be a cartoonist, only instead of an Ames Guide I’m using Krita’s text tool and Blambot’s font to work out the spacing and position.

Captain’s Log 20092193 – Splashing in the Rain

3 pages so far today on the Hat Trick Storyboard.

I’m aiming for 4 a day, 6 days a week, but I’ll not complain so long as I move forward. Slow and Steady wins the race and all that.

I’m thinking of stopping and producing that page 40 splash. It’ll be good to add to my morning tweet rotation, and as an advertisement for the book.

We are now solidly within the overlap of the first Hat Trick Book and this comic, which is meant to take its place as the beginning of the series. I’m walking carefully, trying to retell the same story bit from a slightly different angle, trying to make sure everything needed to enjoy Hat Trick is present, but the people who own the first book don’t feel like it was redundant, or they aren’t getting anything new.

In the first book, this section takes place in rain. That was a considerable pain in the butt to draw, and I’m considering just quietly pretending that never happened in the comic.

I’m also minded to work on a new idea: St. Patrick’s Breastplate, illustrated by me. But we’re going back to the iron law: one project come hell or high water, all others only once I can report project on the one.

Pants on Fire

Or: the Advantage of Pantsing

In writing, it is generally thought there are two approaches, and a writer falls somewhere on a spectrum between the two:

Pantsing and Plotting.

A Pantser “writes by the seat of his pants”. He charges forward and sees what will come out of his pen. A plotter plans ahead, giving himself character sheets and a plot outline.

In general, I have a certain amount of contempt for pantsing. It strikes me as writing by accident. At the very least, a man ought to know how he intends his story to end. Otherwise, how does he know it’s any good? And indeed, the more I use formulas and structures and plots and principles, the better my stories tend to get.

However, there is a certain point where planning is stalling, and you just need to start executing.

I’ve been stalling on the second half of Hat Trick: Night Mare Night Mare for a couple of weeks now. Time to get back on those storyboards.

It is easier, after all, to fix a bad draft than to fix no draft.

Like it or not, I have a Style..

So, I just made this post because I wanted to use WordPress’s gallery feature to stick these images side by side.

But I think it’s worth saying I feel like I am about to dive in and finish Hat Trick. No promises today. Gonna try and tinker with the plot, get the ending properly sorted. And I need to talk theology of vocation with my pastor tomorrow. But I feel like it’s about time.

Anyway, my preferred style would be somewhere between Bill Watterson and Johannes Helgeson (warning: Not Safe for Work)

What I do is clearly not that. It’s more like a cross between Mario Strikers and Robert Crumb. Try as I might, I can’t brink myself to ink a picture and not break out the hatching! Maybe after I’m done with my next book, I should take a month or two and just do studies…

John Michael Jones Learns the Lord’s Prayer

As noted last time, a John Michael Jones book where his dad sits him down and teaches the Lord’s Prayer, is currently the focus of my attentions.

There are two parallel tracks on that one:

Track 1: Zettelkasten to Storyboard

  • Research the Lord’s Prayer (via smart notes).. ✔️
  • Lay out the card storyboards
  • Transcribe the card storyboards to digital storyboards

Track 2: 3D to Painting

For Kid Proportions (John Michael) and Superhero Proportions (David, John Michael’s Dad), in any order:

  • Proportion drawing ✔️
  • 3D Sculpt
  • Retopo Body
  • Retopo Head
  • Retopo Hands
  • Sculpt/Model Clothes
  • Sculpt/Model Hair
  • Create Sword Prop
  • Create Poster/Painting of Character

And then combine the two in father and son painting.

When both tracks are done, everything is ready for production. At this point, I go to Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, and simultaneously, I go to my secret teams for proofreading, review, and editing.

So this week, I aim to spend a couple hours each day doing 3D stuff, and adding a page or two a day to the card stack.

Update: Today’s Progress

Continue reading “John Michael Jones Learns the Lord’s Prayer”

Weekly update

If I had storyboards, this would be a paid SubscribeStar update. But I do not.

Last week, I got to the end of a story arc on Hat Trick and instead of trying to push ahead, as is my wont, I decided to go all in on making kids’ books via zettelkasten. The idea is I work on whatever I want in the form of little note cards (which in my case are literally playing cards),

…and when a cluster of cards develops to the point that I can turn it into a book, I turn it into storyboards and kick off the process.

Switch!

So I got started on Awesome Moments. But because A) I don’t trust my printer/scanner, and B) I’ve always wanted to illustrate a kids’ book by painting over 3D models, I spent a few days re-teaching myself how to sculpt in Blender.

During the process, I unearthed some reference pictures I drew for character proportions, and attempted to use them, but decided they weren’t right for my needs: I need big hands and feet, for a more cartoony look.

So I produced a new set of proportions, which I have yet to try sculpting or modeling in any way.

Yesterday, the thought occurred that it would be better to make a story that had only one or two characters, so that I can produce a finished book as soon as possible.

The List

To that end, I listed out all the stories and settings I have on my mind, in case any jumped out at me as the best candidate. This is not the first time I’ve examined my options.. I tend to go through the list each time I finish a project to try and pick the next one. But this time I tried to be exhaustive, and from now on, when I conceive a new project, I intend to go back and edit that list rather than make a new one.

Making Awesome Moments 1 is going to take 3-6 months no matter what I do. The idea of picking a project that allowed me to build incrementally toward it was more a joke and an excuse because having a list of all my potential projects is extremely useful to me.

But… then a thought occurred to me. And I already spoiled it at the beginning of the post.

Switch!

John Michael Jones learns the Lord’s Prayer! I sculpt JMJ and his dad, I make a room with a bunch of stained glass windows, and I make the windows illustrative of the prayer in question. Bam.

Yesterday I smart noted the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s large catechism on it. And this has me a little worried…

A Little Worry

Historically, I have not finished projects I’ve started. I like to jump around. Last year, I turned that around by picking tiny projects and committing to them come hell or high water.

The Smart Note/Zettelkasten approach is founded on the belief that jumping around is actually the right way to go — if you do it smart.

I have reason to trust it. But now, having jumped twice in a single week, trusting the process is getting hard. There is no intrinsic limit on it.

I’m going to give it 3 months. If I don’t have at least one book storyboarded by December, I need to reconsider.

Yet Another List of Projects

Yesterday, I went through my old attempts to build a 3D basis for book making and extracted a new proportion set:

Big feet, big hands, big heads gives a cartoon/toy feel. Sculpted forms plays into my prejudices also. I think it will do. I won’t know until I model a couple of characters, and ultimately make a book with them. But I have a good feeling about this set.

The single, most efficient way to test this idea of using lego people to make books is to design a book that only has one character. At most, two. Preferably a constant background. Preferably a blank background.

Basically, The Monster at the end of this Book.

Vintage Books for the Very Young: The Monster at the End ...

Although, come to think of it, making posters would be a good intermediate step. Just having finished, printable pictures would tell me a lot of what I need to go to keep, cancel, or modify the project. So, my prior contention that I should just use this as a way to do the Original Character challenge is probably the way to go. And that is probably what I’ll do.

But I started this blog post with the intention of listing as many potential projects as occur to me in the off chance that one of them will have an obvious “Monster at the End of this Book” story I can tell. And having that list will be useful. So I’m still going to make it. In alphabeticalish order.

Read on, reader!

Awesome Moments Models

Last time I spent any time on the Awesome Moments project, a few months ago, I came up with some drawings and a concept for proportions based on the drawings.

The idea is to make what I call “lego people”. Not that they have any physical resemblance to legos, but that I have hands and torsos and legs and heads and hairpieces that I can mix and match to create several different cartoony characters.

And the art style is an art style I can be happy with for most of my projects because, using them as a basis for paintings, I can produce higher quality books faster than if I were drawing them.

Mind you, I’m not 100% sure I don’t want to draw them yet. Only 90%. I’m sculpting and sketching away secure in the knowledge that I don’t need to make that decision until the book is ready to harvest from my deck box.

Thing is, this is not the first time I had the idea to do lego people for a project.

Continue reading “Awesome Moments Models”

What’s in the Cards?

  • Awesome Moments is sitting at 14 pages, 4 of which I mapped today.
    • The goal is book 1 is the Gospel, but with a brief bit on Eden, and a brief bit on the Resurrection to provide context. AM1 is the framework for all the other AM books.
    • All the pages thus far are Creation/Eden. I expect to get 4-6 more pages out of Eden, so let’s use that to estimate final book length:
      • 20 pages Eden
      • 40 pages Christ
      • 10 pages Resurrection
    • At a rate of 3 pages/day, that means 13 weeks before the cluster is ready to be harvested. That puts me storyboarding in November, aiming to release the book in January or something. Yikes.
    • But we’re going for max quality, so…
  • Hat Trick has 32 pages, zero new.
    • Aiming to make the final story about twice the length of the intro story, for a total of 100ish pages.
    • At this rate, it’ll be done when it’s done. Which is sad, because I was aiming for October, but unless I get bitten by a Hat Trick bug, it’s unlikely.
  • Trying to sort out what I’m going to do with Anvor
  • Trying to sort out what I’m going to do for “Trad Berenstain Bears” (that is, a series starring a large yet functional family).
    • John Michael Jones is a candidate for this, though he presently has a small family.
    • I had also hypothesized a family of space doggos on a star-faring houseboat.
      • However, for maximum functionality, we want people tied to land, and not sojourners.
      • Although… sojourners does work well as a metaphor for this life, as we await our True Home…
      • I have previously hypothesized a spacefaring family that was designed to be my favorite things about Star Trek. These two concepts could be rolled together.
    • A bad candidate is Anvor. Anvor is a bunch of stories I told as a kid that could or even should be reborn as kids’ books. None of them fit this archetype. However, Anvor and its existing lore would be a good candidate for the backdrop.
    • The final good candidate is V-Knights, another series of stories I told when I was young. This one would be extremely simple to convert into a functional family piece.
    • At the moment, none of the card clusters here have any pages.
  • Every now and again, I yearn to code.
  • I’d like to make some mermaid thing for my kid. Right now is too late to have it done for the next birthday, however.

So we’re looking at two or three months before I produce another product. Ouch. I’ll have to see if I can expedite the process. However, I do have a commitment to make my next book the absolute best product I can, regardless of the time investment.

I don’t think that’s ultimately a good plan. I think there needs to be a balance between quality and getting the products out where they are doing some good. But to strike that balance, I need to know which extremes I’m balancing between, and thus far I’ve only tried to work quickly rather than qualitatively. So, at least one book is going to take a loong time to make.

This week in making Kids’ books:

Having converted to the deck box method of making books, this week’s goal is to continue to seed my box. At least a couple of cards each day.

On the theory that Awesome Moments is the cluster most likely to be harvested next, and having done some “3D sketches” to get my knack back:

Each day, after seeding my deck, I intend to complete or retopo a sculpt to build up a library of pieces to use in future books. And I think I’ve worked out a guiding principle. I decided to post a challenge to teh twitterz (sic):

Continue reading “This week in making Kids’ books:”