Captains Log 0201130.080, The King is Coming

I storyboarded 4 pages today. Here’s the whole storyboard as it currently exists:

Keeping in mind each picture is two pages, and we begin on page 2 (page 1 is the title page), I’ve decided I need to insert two pages between biting the fruit and Super Saiyan Jesus showing up for his morning constitutional. Since I’m going to make a big deal about the animal skins God furnishes our first parents with, I need to shout out the fig leaf outfits they make themselves. I had initially thought I wouldn’t need to (I’m trying to cut out every little bit I can as this is a race to get to the Jesus), but it turns out its not gonna work that way.

The Plan for this week

I made the art for a game a couple years back, and it’s relaunching December 4th. I need to make new art for the relaunch, so that’s my primary responsibility this week. I intend to get at least 2 pages of storyboard done a day while my main focus is on the game art. Next week I intend to push it up to 6+ pages a day. Gotta move fast, because this is the first draft, and the job of the first draft isn’t to be pretty; it’s to have something to critique and improve upon.

Super Saiyan Jesus

Family has the sniffles, so we’re skipping church this week, alas. Today I decided to draw Super Saiyan Jesus.

Step 1

It’s a bit dodgy. I’m not supposed to work on my project o the month on Sunday, but it’s not December yet, and this is not a storyboard for Awesome Moments, and I feel like doing it, so it doesn’t technically count.

So this is a ‘pencil’ sketch composed in Krita. My ideal workflow is to convert this to cyan, print it out on cardstock, and then ink it with my Tombow brush pens. The ideal workflow will be used for this picture, but may not be useable for the awesome moments books; my printer is not capable of printing or scanning large enough pictures for the U.S. Letter size book I aim to make.

But there are workarounds: printers exist that can manage big enough papers, and are available at high (for starving artists like myself) but reasonable prices. It’s possible my church may have an industrial printer that I can borrow which will solve all my problems. And at the last resort, I have determined I can ink it digitally, even though I really, really don’t want to. That was the whole point of making this picture:

I’m going to post this blog post right here, right now. But I’ll come back to it as I accomplish further steps on Super Saiyan Jesus drawing because I believe it will serve as a useful illustration I can point people back to when discussing making my books.

Step 2

It’s good to slap down a picture as quick as you can, and then walk away from it for a few minutes. All sorts of tweaks begin to suggest themselves.

Continue reading “Super Saiyan Jesus”

The Awesome Moments Manifesto

So, here’s an explanation of my thinking, so you can understand what I’m up to. Starting with the storyboards thus far.

Awesome Moments 1 is meant to be the gospel story, but I’m drawing on Revelation rather than, e.g. Matthew: start in Eden, and go all the way to the second coming. Here is Adam’s sin. Here is Christ as second Adam. Adam is the first King. Christ is the last King. The King slew a dragon with the cross. The King is coming back.

There’s the 12 pages of storyboard I have so far. Walking through these and explaining the decisions I’ve made will, I think, serve as a useful way to demonstrate what the Awesome Moments project is really, truly all about. So let’s go!

Continue reading “The Awesome Moments Manifesto”

Assessment 2

This is not a final picture, this is upscaled and painted with some different brushes, but I feel I’m onto something. The trick is whether this technique scales to full size, which I intend to spend today testing.

Trying to ink digitally at 900 DPI with the intention of downscaling to 600 and my laptop is chugging. Naturally. What if I go 450 to 300…

I can ink and paint at 450 DPI with the GDQ brushes. We may have a way forward.

Assessment

I only got 2 or three hours to paint on this, and I feel like I need a solid 8-12 hours to produce a final painting. But already I dislike where it is going.

I don’t dislike the concept sketch though. It suggests a final product I could be quite pleased with. But how do I get from here to there?

Should I do successive refinements leading to a printout across 4 pages of 8.5×11 with each page of the final book being inked across two pages? Should I kickstart funds for a big printer/scanner? Should I try to ink in vector art? Should I suck it up and see the painting to the end, wherupon I discover the lameness in this muddy middle was merely an awkward growing pain?

I’m not sure. But it’s good to ask these questions now, because I feel the answers are just beyond my fingertips.

Continue reading “Assessment”

Captain’s Log, 0201122.185

I’ve been too sick to move the last three days. Going into my sickness, I tinkered with Alpha Test (which I’m now calling 8-Bit Demake). I got a single comic done, and then I crashed hard.

When I look at all my projects, the only one that strikes me as long-term is Awesome Moments, because the only thing that matters in this world is who makes it into the next one. I would like to make the list. I would like my children, also, to make the list.

I’m a bad man, so I don’t really care if anyone else besides my friends and family make it, but it would objectively be a good thing if something I made got some rando stranger I don’t care about into God’s Kingdom.

Hat Trick, Re-Tail, all my other projects are dust in the wind. I will make better things in the Resurrection. Awesome Moments is the single project idea I have that will matter even after this world is aborted and the do-over spins up.

That’s technically not 100% accurate. I’m sure more people have been converted by Narnia than by Mere Christianity, by Lord of the Rings than by any theological rant of Tolkien. I don’t know how God will use my creations. My calling as an artist is to make the very best creations I can, and trust God to use them well, rather than trying to be a second-rate priest instead of a first-rate nursery jester.

But it’s close enough to the truth. I do have a duty to catechize my children. If I choose to do so by making for them a picture book, why shouldn’t anyone else in my religion profit by my labor? Truly, this is the only project of mine that can objectively be seen as urgent.

Yesterday, as I was slowly emerging from the mucus-encrusted cocoon of my convalescence, a thought began to find its way through my crusty brain. You see, my first book was a big 8.5 x 11 inches. But all the books I have created since have been scaled back to 6×9. There are two reasons for this:

  1. It felt wrong that my books were bigger than Dr. Seuss’s.
  2. I want to make my art large, and then scale it down for the book. But I haven’t a scanner nor a printer capable of handling something larger than 8.5 x 11.

The first objection was dealt with simply by reading a biography of Dr. Seuss. I ceased to view him as an unattainable standard, and instead began to see him as a rival I could one day overtake. There’s nothing sacrilege about having bigger books than him! If kids like big books with big pictures, then that’s what I should make!

The second objection fell last Sunday, when I did some art of Wren for fun. You remember, this bit?

I’m not 100% happy with this process. But I didn’t need to be for this picture. It was a one-off, not a product for a client or something.

However, that process of drawing a picture at low resolution, scaling it up and painting over it, then scaling it up and painting over it again… that could work as a “multiple drafts” way of making a children’s book. If I did the writing at the same time, gave each draft some space, got proofreaders and editors involved before the pictures had too much work put into them…

Maybe I can make 8.5 x 11 inch books after all.

So now we come to the end of my story. Today I woke up strong enough to cook and clean and look after my family, who are all ailing just as I was. And I had an impulse to do a quick color sketch of the first few pages of Awesome Moments.

I think tomorrow I shall pick a pair of pages and try to produce a polished painting so as to prototype the process.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will try and do at least 4 more draft pages, and polish 2 pages, probably 4 and 5 (the middle pair) or 6 and 7 (the dragon pages!) into what would look like a final form. Tomorrow or Tuesday, another 4+ prototype pages and a a write-up of what Awesome Moments is, and why I’m so insistent on doing it. I aim to take Thursday off.

The muse has smitten. Ars longa, vita brevis!

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.