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 0210326.071

Proof is in.

Blanket Octopus : pics

Oops. That’s not my proof. That’s a blanket octopus. The females fly through the sea with superhero capes. The males went undiscovered until very recently because they max out at an inch long.

Ahem.

Image
Image

Work on getting my paperwork squared away for the Kickstarter proceeds slowly. My first read through of the book as already identified multiple grievous errors.

And I feel this close to figuring out my ‘golden path’.

wait, what?

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.

Captain’s Log 0210212.162: Workflow

Another reason I avoid commission work is I do not yet know what it will take to produce art on command. When I completed my first book, and especially my second, I thought I did. But I am no longer certain.

Taking a commission is making a promise. I’d rather not make it unless and until I know I’m going to keep it.

Constant good-natured advice from my wife, and the results of my own projects have taught me both that I need to be able to flit from project to project like a butterfly, and I need to be able to double down on a project with a “Hell or High Water” attitude. I can’t just adopt one approach; I have to do both. Which means every personal project needs a tinkering phase and a production phase so I can delineate which mode I’m in.

Hat Trick is going to be so much better because I didn’t begin production on it right away. I can recognize now that the climax needs work. I.E., adding a real climax would be a start. I knew it at the time I storyboarded it. But I was too burnt out and desperate to finish to pay the nagging doubt heed. I needed the emotional space that only time could provide to make that call.

So, we need 3 kinds of phase:

  1. Tinker Phase
    • Just playing around
    • Project is free to be continued or abandoned or scrapped for spare parts
  2. Draft Phase
    • Goal is to create a complete thing, from beginning to end, at lowest quality needed to get the idea across.
    • Work fast. Finish.
    • Project is not free to be continued or abandoned: the draft must be completed.
    • But, once the draft is completed, the project must be set aside for at least one month, and then evaluated. Options include:
      • Abandon
      • Additional draft
      • Produce
  3. Production Phase
    • Kickstart projects. If the Kickstarter fails, the project may be set aside and put into production later.
    • Once the Kickstarter is finished, if production continues, production receives Hell or High Water commitment.

So, what does this mean for my current mess?

I’ll get back to you.

Captain’s Log, 0210208.060

Well, the week of my nativity is over.

Time to actually get serious.

This last week I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and nothing else (except what was required to keep my family and their animals alive, of course). And what I wanted turned out to be the basis of a platforming sequel to my hit game Candy Raid: the factory.

This gif has a lot of little things worth talking about, but let’s get back to it.

I need to either search for a day job, or else gear up to pay my bills with my projects quickly. Option 2 means running a successful crowdfund ASAP. The only project I have that is close to ready for that is Awesome Moments, my Bible Story book.

Because of my social media fast, the earliest I can run the Kickstarter in question effectively is March. If I choose to work my butt off on Hat Trick, or my bestiary, or on this little Candy Raid platformer, I can hypothetically have either of these projects Kickstarter ready by then. But I have to be 100% committed to the project. And my history of underestimating time to completion on projects leads me to believe I’d need at least two months to get either of those ready. And even a successful Kickstarter wouldn’t disburse funds until April.

Which means I need to hunt for a day job.

Sucks to be me, but I’ve been employed at dead-end day jobs for 15 years, and I’ve done the starving artist thing for 6 months. Being jobless definitely helps my projects, but not by giving me more time, but rather by giving me consistent time. If I can get something with regular hours, I should be able to keep my productivity close to the same.

If not, such is life. So let’s talk about how we are going to change our approaches to Vargenstone and Everything Else as a result.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log, 0210208.060”

Status Report 0210118.053

Vargenstone

Vargenstone remains where it was last time I last time I spoke…

…and while I am going to try and get some serious work on it done this week, I’m not going to stress over it while I’m the only guy changing anything.

Theria

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m done with the virtual pet for now. Not permanently, but I was doing it to scratch an itch and the itch is scratched. I will probably continue adding pages to the book storyboard at a rate of one or two per week so that I’ve have a huge head start when the project gets the limelight.

Hat Trick

Continue reading “Status Report 0210118.053”

Goofing around

Today is Sunday. Sunday I goof around. The other post I did today is work, but I didn’t do the work today, I did it yesterday.

My work on Alpha Test/ Retro Reboot still calls to me in other ways. Why not make a comic strip, even if it’s not pixel art? Why not just draw it? Why not prototype stuff in this manner? So today I tested a process for hand drawing a strip in this fashion and… I don’t really like what came out.

But I didn’t put a lot of effort into it either. I wonder what it would look like if I tried to make a book or two worth of stuff in this way.

Well, maybe I’ll find out some other day.

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”

To Everything, turn, turn, turn…

The contentions of this video are twofold:

  1. Choosing a theme is superior to making a resolution. This is because when presented with a fork in the road, it is easier to choose the branch in keeping with your theme than it is to force yourself to take the branch you resolved to take, whether it is there or not.
  2. Consider instead of choosing a theme for a year (or a resolution for a year) choosing a theme for a season. E.g. instead of “I will do 30 pushups a day”, prefer, “this will be the Winter of pushups!” or better yet “the winter of Health!”

I take a definite interest in self-improvement as I fall short on a number of fronts. Fortunate man I, Christ has suffered and died for my many evils. But I still want to better myself for a number of reasons. First of them is: it is good to be good. But more importantly, the better a man I am, the better it is for those I claim to love.

My habit has been making monthly goals, not yearly resolutions nor seasonal themes. And the system has been fruitful, but not as fruitful as I think is possible. I don’t know whether “seasonal themes” is the answer. Right now, I have taken ill and am preparing for sleep, and lack the mental firepower to usefully analyze it. But I have a notion it is more in tune with my natural rhythms, simply because my one-month projects always manage to expand to 3 months. And I wanted to note it down so I can look into it tomorrow, or whenever I am awake and my mind is clear.

When in Doubt, Downsize?

Here’s a desert scene in Alpha Test’s Game-boy Color / NES inspired art rules:

Here’s a desert scene in my experimental “Gameboy cartridge being run by a GBC or GBA, one background palette, one foreground palette” ruleset.

A lot of the same ideas. But I executed it way more quickly and it has way more personality. Since presumably I’m using a desert environment to retro-flannelgraph Bible stories, a background of hills with cities is more useful than one with pyramids. (Though revisting pyramids will come with time).

So what have I done here?

I’ve created two ‘grayscale’ ramps, one for backgrounds, one for sprites. The BG ramp has a blue/green tint, the FG ramp has a red/orange tint and is the only permitted use of pure black and white. And that’s it. All graphics must be made with these ramps.

I’ve also cut the screen size in half both ways, as befits a handheld. Though I’m still making an imaginary retro device that has a 16×9 widescreen aspect ration.

Hmm.

Here’s the WordPress Gallery, so I can test it for the phone…

And here’s the whole page in grayscale, so I can guess how it will print:

The whole idea of Alpha Test is to prototype my stories quickly. The more harsh my constraints, the quicker it can be assembled.

I think this is probably The Way.