God has graciously placed me in a position where I can focus on my art if I choose. It may be better for me to go get a job and help pay the bills, but if I want, I can work on and off as a farmhand, and try to make money as an artist in the mean time, and my family will live in relative poverty, but not badly for all that.
And yet, if I got a job, if I went through Lamda School, things could be so much better for my family. A little bit of that distress of decision making is showing through in my apathy towards 3D, my trying to pick a project, and so forth.
As I wrestle with the decision of what is the best thing I can do for those under me, it is good to remember a man’s vocation is not abstract. I am not a father, a husband, a farmhand, and an artist. I am a father to my specific kid, a husband to my specific wife, a farmhand to my brother, and so on.
I need to decide whether this is an obstacle to be overcome, or a sign I should sculpt for fun, but continue to illustrate books with drawings.
No matter what you do, there will be parts you don’t like, that bore or discomfit you. Overcoming this resistance is key to accomplishing anything. But! Sometimes you are unwilling to do something because you shouldn’t do it.
Telling these two situations apart is hard.
Possibly, I should sculpt characters, render turn-arounds, and use those to create model sheets.
Well, I’m gonna go feed my face, ponder the question, and maybe look at other stuff I should be examining, such as education related stuff.
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.
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.
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.
This is part 3 of 2. Part 1 is why I’ve stopped work on Hat Trick for now (I have and I haven’t), part 2 is I’m likely to work on Awesome Moments next (we’ll see), and this is less a member of the series and more the fallout of that decision.
Here’s a bunch of pictures I’ve made by slapping down a 3D render, and then painting over it.
It’s not the only way I do things. I can also paint stuff without relying on 3D to cheat.
And I left out the more egregious examples where the end result looked worse for the technique rather than better.
But I’d like to use the technique for Awesome Moments.
Or more specifically, I’d like to use a variation on the technique.
I would like to create a library of character pieces that I can mix and match to create a wide cast of characters. Stick Head A on Body B with Legs Q, and we all have the same hand model…
With each book I release, the new parts exponentially increase the number of characters, situations, etcetera, I can use. But first, I have to settle on a style and build the parts library for a single story.
It’s been about a year since I last did anything serious in 3D. I was starting to get a knack for sculpting in Blender when I made a lamb for a nibling.
But that knack has gone. And so, last night and today, I have been working on relearning how to sculpt in Blender.
I put in my 2 pages today (3, actually), and then, for the heck of it, I entered a contest on the internet.
(Yesterday, alas, my progress on Hat Trick was a couple of cards written for the card box seed. I had to stay out of the house while it was fumigated).
The contest is to replicate the following image in one’s own style:
And here is my entry:
This marks the first time since I moved to Minnesota that I did an illustration start to finish. All the drawing I’ve done ’til now has been concept work or draft work. And, as I won’t have a book draft ready to produce for a good while, the pattern seems liable to hold.
So, right now, I’m taking notes on blank playing cards.
There was some German sociologist who got the bright idea of keeping his notes in a box and numbering them 1, 2, 3, 2a, 2a1… etc… and allowing clusters to develop naturally. When a cluster got large enough, he could turn the cluster into a book. In this manner, he published some 80 books in his adult lifetime.
I’m neither a sociologist nor a great respecter of sociology. But I hypothesize this method can result in superior books on my part if I just do card notes for whatever I feel like tinkering with, and then ‘harvest’ clusters of cards to convert to my current bookmaking workflow. An Awesome Moments cluster has already started to develop.
Which brings me to my current labors on Hat Trick.
Hat Trick 2: Night Mare Nightmare, AKA Hat Trick 1: Night Mare Nightmare, consists of two parts. Part one is a story about Arthur Rabbit as a child, and is almost mapped out. Part two is the proper sequel of Hat Trick 1: The Death of Arthur, AKA Hat Trick 0: The Death of Arthur, and wraps up Arthur’s struggle with the Night Mare. The idea is to make the second book a worthy sequel to the first book, while at the same time making it able to stand alone as a comic book and to serve as a new, better foundation for the series.
Part 2 of Book 2 is not well conceived and planned. Up til now, my method of storymaking has been to plow ahead and see what I come up with, albeit I do start with the climax in mind, so I have some assurance that the story will work, and I do typically lay out an act-based plot structure before writing.
I have been considering planting HT2 it in my card case and harvesting it when it grows ripe, just converting my entire workflow to this new zettelkasten system. However, now I have a better idea. I will finish the mockup for part 1, plant the second story in the card case, and start seeding the card case for whatever I feel like. When Part 2 is ready to harvest, I’ll mock up the rest of the comic.
The result is Hat Trick 2 has been changed from definitely my next book to probably my next book.
My next book is whichever ripens first.
I will keep this blog updated with the statuses of the seeds in my card box. By way of example, the Awesome Moments cluster is currently about 15 cards, including 6 concept pages. The Hat Trick cluster has nothing, but over the next couple of days, it should grow quite a bit.
So, last week was rather pathetic. Monday, nothing. Tuesday, nothing. Wednesday through Friday, the bare minimum amount of work.
This week, on Monday, I got three pages storyboarded. I was pumped. We were finally picking up speed.
Tuesday I had to help my brother make hay all day. No problem. I’ll just spend all of Wednesday working on the comic.
Wednesday, the tent housing all my belongings blew away in a strong wind, leaving my stuff out in the elements. I spent the whole day trying to recover everything, all of Thursday making more hay, and Friday recovering.
So we went from six pages in a week to three. Not good.
I need to re-evaluate my workflow and goals and bring them in line with reality. I have a couple of thoughts on this, but they are going to wait while I develop them.
My custom, every year, is to take the week of my birthday, the first of February, off, and to spend that vacation, after a couple of days sleeping and playing vidya, analyzing how the previous year went and deciding what I want to try with the next year.
My version of New Years resolutions, as it were.
I can’t actually do that this time round. See, I’ve worked at the same retail establishment for 15 years, so for the last several years, I acquired Paid Time Off at a frightening rate. But last year, I quit, and was unemployed for several months. Then I applied for my old job back and got it — but not with my 15 years of accumulated raises and benefits.
I did get three days off in a row this week, which was intended to be spent recording audio for a digital pop-up book. But life circumstances in the month between when I requested the time off, and when the time off occurred meant I was not ready to record. Indeed, I did not accomplish anything on the pop-up book really at all. So I’ve rested and prayed and pondered, and I’ve decided I’ve given up on paper kids’ books too soon. This year, minus January, but plus January of next year (as though the year started February), I’m going to produce a new kids’ book each month. And while I do that, the question I’ll explore is: is there a way for me to make a living producing illustrated children’s books?