I’ve got a bunch of ideas whirling about right now. They’re not organized, and I’m blogging them because it’s better to have them out than in. This is going to take into account many of my recent adventures.
I’ve started doing a book about my ADHD. I dunno. Maybe it’ll be useful some day. I’m working in my Zoom & Enhance workflow.
Tonight, for grins and giggles, I did the page of me overlooking Anvor.
I have started working on the book because my mind is stuck on a continuous loop of how crap it is that I do not choose what to focus on or focus well enough to do anything. I am enjoying my new day job as much as one can. It’s a great fit. But I dislike having a day job. I have a list of almost 30 projects, and 5 or 6 of them would be guaranteed hits if I followed through on them.
I’m getting that frustration of wheel spinning again.
The ADHD book shouts out the big list of projects. After all, 90% of my problem is a million great ideas and zero follow through. And because of that, I keep getting reminded that more than one of them is financially quite viable. Aside from Anvor being… okay. Fine I guess. I would enjoy it… 8 Lives Left would kill, and so would Re-Tail.
The problem with being inspired to consider my problems is I get to wallow in my archetypical despair.
But perhaps now that I have an idea what I’m aiming at, I can get that fixed. Yech.
Who can deliver me from this body of death? Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Anyway, tonight’s process has got me thinking about the painting I’ve been going on about for the last three posts. I was unsatisfied with how the cartoon painting of Anvor came out. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s not great.
I think this experiment is failing. Well. I think this experiment is succeeding, in that any experiment which teaches you something is a success, and this one is teaching me that I don’t like the results of my digital painting.
After being intensely dissatisfied with the painting of Anvor, I decided to do a quick, small, study, where I dug up a photo from the internet and painted my own version, using the sloppy zoom & enhance methodology. Only I convert it to Wren. I decided to go full thirst mode on this, because the point was I wasn’t having fun or enjoying the outcome and so let’s paint something I will find pleasant to look at. Behold, study in blue and orange:
Thanks, but I hate it.
I think it’s a decent enough picture for a quick, impressionistic study made solely 100% for fun. I will probably include it henceforth whenever I make a great gallery of Wren. But I think that impressionistic brush paintings are not going to be it for me, and this picture was the straw that killed it.
Well, these pictures:
I just like these pictures so much more:
At the end of the day, I am still a cartoonist, and content so to be.
Woke up this day to people bashing Shel Silverstein in a blog I follow. I endorse bashing Shel Silverstein. It is abundantly clear to me from his work that he hated little kids, and given that I, who enjoy writing for children, have to have a day job, it irritates me that a man who hated it made a career of it.
You know, making kids books is a good enough calling. It’s a freaking fantastic calling. It’s just about the best calling there could be. And yet, my mind is always on churn, looking for other things to do, or ways to complicate it, even though I make kids’ books just fine.
I dunno what’s next. Focus on getting the ADHD sorted. Maybe try to find a short path to feeding my family as I get there.
Awesome Moments awaits.
Despite the extensive 3D work I’ve put into it, I think I want to ditch using 3D rotoscopes for consistency because they stiffen my drawings in the same way painting does. I dunno. I suppose still using them as reference, but not for tracing might work out allright.
More studies, more practice, more refinement are in order. But less of A, and more of B:
And I need rest and spiritual counsel and prayer.
I feel like we took a detour that was needed to be sure of the road.
I was under the weather this weekend, and it had been forever since I made any progress on any of my projects. So I painted.
Painting strengthens my artistic skills by forcing me to exercise observation and translation of form and light in ways that my normal, casual, caricature does not. I prefer cartooning to painting. I am more pleased in general with my results when cartooning than when painting. But painting makes me a better cartoonist. And besides: despite my lack of satisfaction with the results, I get absorbed into the process.
And when I have a big project, and progress is slow, it helps to stop and do a picture that takes all day, so you have a finished picture you can point to and say, “hah! I was on this day productive!”
First I did this one:
Interestingly to me, this more realistic version of Wren grows less and less disappointing every time I look at it. The first instant I declared it finished, I hated it. But now, I kinda sorta think it’s okay.
It’s a little stiff. A little plastic. But not terrible for all that. Anyway, whenever I try one of these paintings, I proceed from an energetic, lively, cartoony sketch to a kind of plastic, stiff final painting. Observe:
The picture got more detailed. The picture got more polished. But it also lost something of the personality. By finishing it, I killed it. And not in a good way.
This is not a problem outside my painting These pictures are finished, but retain all the life I poured into the sketches:
So, in a fit of dissatisfaction with my study in yellow and orange, I thought I’d try an experiment on Sunday. Instead of trying to create a fully polished painting, I’d try to paint a cartoon. I’d use a rough brush, and force myself to keep things loose, and abandon the project the moment I had successfully expressed whatever it was I was going for.
This picture runs into the constant problem of Wren’s cartoon proportions looking too young/old. I tell myself that it’s a function of the style I’m trying to build/imitate..
But I know it can be done. Betty Boop has a bigger head than cartoon Wren, and yet nobody thinks she’s supposed to be six.
But other than the problems I willingly gave myself by creating a female half-goblin lead, I really like the style of working from vague to precise, keeping it loose and scratchy all the while. Wren’s face is clear, her hands and feet are almost gestures rather than paintings. The monster in the cave look comes across clearly, but I only put half a day’s work into the painting. It has the life and an energy that the study in yellow lacks.
This semi-impressionistic work is a matter where I have mixed feelings. I like impressionism. I like attempts to go in art where the camera cannot go. As I’ve said before, I like caricature and pixel art. On the other hand, I have a well-honed distaste for abstract for the sake of abstract, for deconstructive or worse, masturbatory art that has typified the notion of art in the West my entire life.
But one of the things I like about text rather than art is that the audience participates in building the world. You write, “short ginger,” but each audience member fills in the details of the picture himself. And making the art messier, more suggestive, more abstract, pulls some of this superpower of writing into artwork.
I think I’ve concluded I want to do at least one book like this. But I need to do more paintings like this to try and explore this visual space and decide what I like or dislike about it. I’ve discovered not a solution to my problems, but a passage that may lead to a cave filled with gold, but may lead to a dead end.
At the very least, this form of picture generation is honest. I’m not trying to hide what parts of the painting I cared about and which I didn’t. It’s right there in front of you.
But I can’t explore today. I’m sorry, Mario, but our drawing tablet is in another office.
So, here’s kind of the oldest “official” art of Wren. I say kind of, because older drawings exist, but they don’t survive.
Wren was created because I needed a lone wolf wanderer to explore a setting I had just devised by extrapolating from earlier stories I had told my siblings. The last set of stories I’d worked on with a lone-wolf wanderer had starred a reformed supervillain dude, so I wanted to change things up, make it a girl with zero tragedy in her backstory.
Wren canonically is a privateer. She got a scholarship to mystic knight school because she was competent and tiny (mystic knight armor is more powerful on small people because it has to devote less energy to covering them. Kinda like tiny people being sought out as jockeys in the real world). But she dropped out of mystic knight school. Her outfit was designed in the story to be pragmatic and something you might see on a wizard/pirate. In the stories, I didn’t get too specific. Boots. Belt pouches for holding her Aether Arts (which are stored as crystals). A couple of knives forged by her crippled brother. A bucklet, which is a glove designed for wizardry.
When I got around to drawing it, I of course went the exposed navel route because I was single and lonely. I am no longer single and lonely, but there it is.
The first time I converted Wren to pixel art sprite form, this happened:
All the details make it into the sprite. But it’s too much. It’s confusing and disjointed. Her jacket looks like it could be pauldrons or, you know, Cap’n Cruch cereal boxes glued to her upper arm. It’s not clear. So the character was simplified dramatically.
This outfit was significantly better to animate. Arms and legs are separated out and easy to see. It works for the same reason Mario wearing overalls works.
In my head, this was a streamlining needed for animation and because the sprite was so small. She still canonically wears the jacket. In fact, she probably wears a full on tank top rather than just a scarf around her bosom. As you can see in the first cover I made for a potential Wren book:
She’s a privateer who operates out of an airship. Well, an airboat anyway. Very steampunky. Look, I gave her goggles! The goggles aren’t in the sprite. Too much detail, make it hard to read.
Around this time, I also got it in my head that instead of making her a pair of daggers, her brother made her bucklet, and in fact, a pair of bucklets that have a built in ability to generate crystal swords. They serve the same purpose
Anyway, in the one story I wrote, Wren acquires a shevlar harness. It’s a suit capable of generating armor. Feeling less and less justified in drawing Wren as half naked, I started drawing her with the harness on instead.
In the stories, she’s not described as half naked. She’s not trying to show off her physique or attract a mate. (In the stories, she’s not even particularly attractive. She’s a 5 or maybe a 6. Mind you, she’s a 5 or maybe a 6 in a culture that isn’t morbidly obese like ours…)
She’s just out there with a houseboat hunting monsters and pirates for bounty. Presumably, since she runs her boat alone, she spends a lot of time in warmer climes wearing nothing from the waist up but a sports bra to keep her bosom from bouncing painfully as she battens hatches and trims sails, but also presumably she puts a shirt on when it get cold out or she flies to town for supplies.
When I realized I wanted to make a Wren RPG, I defaulted to the sprite-based design, though. For two reasons: I enjoy drawing half naked women, (who doesn’t?) and again, it’s well optimized for animation.
But, slowly building up was something of a crisis of conscience. I’m not trying to appeal to the coomers. Frankly, I don’t need to: if a Wren-based RPG takes off, they’ll generate their own art without my help. Also, I wanted the design to be fundamentally true to the character.
Wren is not discount Shantae. She doesn’t exist to be shameless. She exists to be a wandering do-gooder loner. I’ve focused on her because I like drawing her and my wife wants more stories about her and she is well suited to the micro RPGs I want to make. It’s kind of a perfect storm.
Sexiness in character design is also a bit of a tricky subject for me. I grew up Baptist (don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do), but I’m not Baptist anymore. My current theology regards the old, ’80s Baptist prudery (Whoa! She’s showing navel!) as legalism worse than Rome’s, because in Rome you can actually get absolution. Indeed, we should not lust nor inflame lust, per the Sixth Commandment. But if putting sexy characters in stories is only and always violating the Sixth, then putting badass characters in stories is only and always violating the Fifth.
Add on top of this the fact that the Social Justice religion has turned to prudery that would make a Puritan blink, and I don’t want to de-sexyify Wren. I want to spit in the eye of my ideological enemies, as long as I can do so at no expense to the story.
And then, making a JRPG with navel in it is a good way to get retweeted by Mark Kern. I probably should ignore that, but can I?
Yesterday, I had to go sell jam at market, and my crisis of conscience reached a head. By the time I got home I was resolved to redesign Wren. I decided my chief guiding light would be character itself. I needed to find an outfit that was true to the character, but still optimized for animation.
I tried just making her wrap a tank top.
It didn’t feel right. I considered that Wren must spend 90% of her time on an airship, working and living by herself. I considered that Wren, often as she faces human foes, faces therians, with power levels that make the differences between humans largely irrelevant.
And I kept coming back to this sprite:
She’s got a pugilist look. Lady boxer kind of thing going.
The design works. It’s consistent. It makes sense. But does it make sense for Wren?
Let me consider the mechanics of her world. The setting is early firearms. Swords and guns and light armor are the norm. Pistols are single shot, but devastating weapons, but not much use against aether shields. However, inside towns, chaos fields are erected that repel therians and prevent the efficient use of aether arts. The average adventurer is going to favor one or two pistols, a smallsword as a sidearm, maybe a spear for genuine combat, and everything is going to be as enchanted as possible, to give him a fighting chance against wild therians.
Wren is not the average adventurer. She is a wizard in her own right, able to manipulate aether directly and to craft her own Arts. But pistols and a smallsword still kind of make sense. Pugilism kind of works anyway for her. Not as a serious tool against man and beast, but as a backbone for an energy based fighting style. Using aether to DBZ foes.
Maybe she just likes boxing.
Maybe her wizardry is optimized for use with fisticuffs because there was a boxing class in college and she took to it like a fish to water.
So, in summary:
I had a moral dilemma weighing on my mind because my character dresses too much like Shantae. I thought about it long and hard, talked it over with my wife, considered some relevant theology and…
…Decided to make her shirt two inches longer.
This may not be where the journey ends, but at the moment, this feels right. I don’t know why. It’s such a tiny change. But here we are.
So, for context, I’m going to tell you roughly how I’m beginning to organize my life.
I keep a deck of blank, poker sized playing cards, on which I take notes. Both to-do lists, but also anything I need to remember for whatever reason.
The numbering format is WW·X | YY·Z where WW is the two digit year, X is the one digit month (A=10, B=11, C=12), YY is the two-digit day, and Z is the note. When notes follow up on each other, a series of numbers goes underneath the note ID.
At times of my choosing, I go through these notes, and rewrite them to put in my Zettelkasten. This is my permanent external memory. Cards that get copied from my journal to my Zettelkasten get cross-referenced so I can go to my monthly archive and see the context of the thought.
Well enough, but what if I need more illustration and room to write? Well, I take the comic format I developed for Bunny Trail Junction…
… and decided was too intense, and bean-ified it..
And I simply index it the same way.
So here’s a gif of the game as it sits so far:
And here are the Wren Beans I’ve collected, making this post the official stop for the Wren Valen RPG
Today’s big projects are contemplative, though I may do physical work as well. By integrating bullet journaling but on playing cards with the Zettelkasten, I have brought together a collection of lessons that have changed how I approach the question of what I should create and how, and I’m going to navel gaze about it below the fold.
Hilariously, even though when I took to Bullet-Journaling™ and realized I could combine techniques from Smart-Noting™, the idea to dip back into my deck and see how my current thought meshes with lessons from my past didn’t occur to me.
But last night, I started reading Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings, and today I decided since I was going to consolidate my notes from that and decide how I would proceed with my Candy Raid sequel from there, I figured I might as well break out the Zettelkasten itself and see how it all worked out.
And well I did. I have learned several lessons in the past that I was ignoring. As well as several lessons I learned recently As well as several lessons I learned recently AND in the past.
Here are a handful of lessons I decided I need to be daily reminded of. Some are good advice in general, others are tailored to my specific personality and style, and are probably bad advice for people who are not very similar to me.
SAY WHY. Even to children. Even to yourself. Nobody is motivated without a WHY.
COMMIT strongly but rarely, and CUT your losses swiftly when your gut says to do so.
PROVOKE yourself to action with challenges. Race the clock. Make bets with yourself.
The correct challenge is seldom the easy one. CHOOSE the challenge with the right amount of meaning and awesomeness.
So, heck with it. I’mma make a JRPG. Not an adventure game, we’re gonna get the combat right in. And instead of tinkering with a property I’m apathetic about, I’m breaking out the Naval Navel herself, the Girl Goblin, my wife’s favorite of my past creations, Wren Valen, the Flying Privateer!
“Wait, did she magically become a redhead halfway through?”
Yes. Hollywood has decided to blackwash all the gingers, and I have decided in return to gingerwash every one of my own characters whose hair and skin color is inessential to the character. This is why John Michael Jones, who is supposed to be a bog-average boy, is a redhead instead of having brown hair.
Obviously Jump the Shark is a shark, and Sera Mermaid was already published as a blonde. Most of my characters cannot be ginger for one reason or another. But those what can, are. And Wren can.
As with all my hyper self-indulgent posts, most of my thoughts are going below the fold.
One of my deepest desires is to make a game. A game that is hand drawn. A game that looks something like this doodle:
I have, on my great big list of projects, a handful of games. An amusing element of them is there is a pattern of “Here’s this big game I want to make, and here’s this smaller game that can be a part of the big game.” 8 Lives Left is the combat system for Breath of the Gameboy. Hell, Alpha Test/Remake, a comic, is the graphics to Untitled Metroidvania.
It is the mark of the internet lefty that his Twitter Profile is a list of mental illnesses. For him, it is frankly a sign of virtue. Before Trans Rights was big, after all, how could a white man be virtuous under that religion except to be disabled? If a physical disability fails to present itself, a mental handicap must make do. And it’s so easy to be depressed. Adopt even half the unnatural premises of post-modernity and you’re most of the way there already.
So it is with some trepidation I discuss the fact that I am clearly ADHD. I am of several minds about this information.
I believe to some degree ADHD is not actually a disorder, but is rather a part of the normal range of human personalities that is ill-suited to the highly unnatural industrial era.
But neither do I make the mistake that lies at the foundation of, e.g., gay rights arguments, that nature is, by mere virtue of being nature, morally good. A man born blind is by nature blind. Blindness is not morally evil, but it is an evil nonetheless. A man born kleptomaniac is by nature inclined to steal. Theft is morally evil.
I think ADHD is natural. Moreover, I think it is not wholly a disorder. I even think much of it is good, and much neutral. You trade the ability to focus for the ability to hyperfocus. You trade the ability stick to a plan for unmatched improvisation. To use a gaming term, you are mentally min-maxed.
There are some genuine moral evils lurking in the wings. As a rule, I don’t make promises, because I know if I do, I will break them. A normal man does not have so much trouble keeping his word. And after spending the last 15 years of my life barely hanging on to a retail job, I’ve spent the last 6 months living on the dole. Neither of these fulfil my responsibilities to protect and provide for my family.
But to a certain degree, how much this is good or bad is irrelevant. Right now I self-medicate with caffeine. If I got enough paperwork cleared to go to a psychiatrist, I could medicate with amphetamines. But I am of the opinion that the American Empire is falling, and her fall will be irrefutable within a decade or two. What then? Maybe life will go on almost exactly the same for me. When Empires fall, there are often provinces that barely notice. But maybe I will have to stalk my food myself, and kill it by hand in a swamp without electricity, internet, or shipping. In which case, not only amphetamines, but also caffeine would be denied me.
So, however much ADHD is a superpower, a collection of attribute min-maxes with benefits and downsides, or my unique expression of the stain of sin left by Adam’s fall, I believe I must find a way to survive and thrive despite it and around it, without regard to any chemical correctives.
For the last few years, my attitude has largely been, “well, I’ve tried and I’ve tried for decades, and never fixed anything. ‘Bout time I just accepted that this is how things will be until I die or Christ returns.”
But my offspring are now showing signs of the same issues.