Captain’s Log 21.6 | 21.A: Concept Singularity 2

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.

For general blog readability, I’m tucking this beneath a fold, but the conclusion came to me the next day.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log 21.6 | 21.A: Concept Singularity 2”

Thanks, I hate it.

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.

Aaannd..

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.

But!

I feel like we took a detour that was needed to be sure of the road.

Captain’s Log 21.6|16.A: Zoom and Enhance

Yesterday I told a tale of two paintings.

Then I decided to further test the process. See if I can make a book this way by storyboarding it with a rough drawing, but then progressively refining it into final art.

So I started small with a template designed to give me a 16×9 image and then show me where the pages will be in the final document. I drew a couple title pages for a therian bestiary.

This was very roughly done because while I have a little Wacom tablet I can use in my day job’s break room, Krita doesn’t like to acknowledge different pen pressures from it.

Perhaps I will get that sorted tonight.

Anyways, I got home and used my big, fancy tablet to refine it…

When painting, I like to start low resolution, something where my PC isn’t going to think five minutes before rendering a brush stroke. Here, I can abuse the power of computer graphics to its fullest. Guy’s nose is too big? Shrink it down. Hand is too far to once side? Grab a smear brush and push it over. Normally, I do this for sketches, then print them out and ink them, then scan them back in and color them. But in this particular process, I’m doing the whole picture this way.

When I’ve pushed the picture as far as it will go, I just double the dots per inch and go in and tweak it even more. So, the size in pixels quadruples, but the size in inches stays the same.

This is far as the process goes tonight. I have to go to work, which means I will not have access to the fancy tablet, only the one with no pressure sensitivity. But now you see why I call the process “Zoom and enhance.”

As you can see, large chunks of the painting get cut off in the book itself. But that’s fine. I’ve made sure the elements I want to be seen in the book are within the pages. I want there to be a 16×9 slice of every painting for me to throw on Twitter or wherever, or use as desktop wallpapers, and while it would work fine to take a slice out of the middle of the images, and have the excess in the book, it felt more right to work in 16×9 at the start and be conscious of where the page borders are within that.

The rough idea is: storyboard an entire book in the fashion of the first image. If I like the book, run a crowdfund, if the crowdfund funds, zoom and enhance until we’re at least 300 DPI on each image to create the final book.

I want (at the moment) to use this process on Awesome Moments book 1. Minus the crowdfund portion because, as much as I want the money, I don’t want the pressure to try and avoid offending my fellow believers in wildly different traditions than mine. Much as I like my Papist and Baptist friends, if I make a book that’s inoffensive both to Papists and Baptists, I will have failed to pass my faith on to my kid.

But I don’t care about peer pressure on any of my own stories. If Bob Snob thinks page 32 of Hat Trick can use more fireballs, I’ll consider his input and maybe even take it if it’s good. There’s no moral hazard really, there.

The thing that’s holding me back from diving in and finishing Awesome Moments in this fashion is I’ve done one and a half pictures with this quasi-impressionistic loose-brush Zoom and Enhance paint cartooning:

I need a larger sample of the style before I decide if it’s the right one for Awesome Moments. So, unless I get another idea, I’m putting that book on hiatus until I complete another (hopefully short) book in the new style.

The only think that my mind wants to move forward on right now, sadly, is the Therian bestiary, which is not short. But in the absence of inspiration to work on, say, Jump the Shark or Hat Trick, it’ll do. The point is to get the test done.

Magic Beenz

I have recently noted that the Bunny Trail Junction comic is unfit for purpose. The purpose is to be a rapid prototyping medium that I can then take and publish, but also develop the ideas found in it into full-fledged games, comics, and storybooks. The reason it is unfit is because I put too much effort into it. Half an hour to an hour per strip, or more. I feel too invested in the result to just toss it out.

And I need to toss out a good portion of my work on BTJ. It’s random. It’s going nowhere. It’s a dead end. And that’s fine. Exploring dead ends and discarding them is good. Pouring so much effort into them that I can’t bring myself to discard them defeats the purpose.

So… unless my comic is simplified to the level of Cyanide and Happiness or XKCD, and I can toss off a single episode in 10 minutes or less, I might as well go straight to formula books.

And I am giving that a try, too.

But yesterday I sat down with a trio of books. A Clifford book, which is an example of a series that did quite well despite being well within my league, Animorphs, which is effectively a monthly pulp for young adults.

And Calvin & Hobbes.

I don’t want to abandon the Newspaper comic art form. I love it. Calvin & Hobbes reminds me of why I love it.

So.. simplifying my art style to the level of Cyanide & Happiness or XKCD, then…

D’Aww! They’re little beans!

I’m not sure this is an actual solution to my actual problem or this is going to actually go anywhere. But I like my little beans.

Hey! Beans is a play on beings! Oh! And it’s also a play on Jack and the Beanstalk, because these are magic beans!

I feel like I’ve hit something here.

Anyway, it’s my day off. I’mma play with my magic beenz.

Update:

I printed out a template that fits 4 on a page instead of 2. The idea is by forcing myself to work tiny, I’ll resist the temptation to get super detailed. But…

Ye gadz, is that ugly. And if I start applying filters or taking an actual brush to fix it in post, I’m missing the point.

So, I reluctantly tried drawing at the previous size, but using my pentel pocket brush.

I like it, and I don’t like it at the same time. I need to think about it s’more. But this stands a good chance of being the road I take.

Ideally, we make stickers of the beenz and we can just cut them out and plop them in and be done with it.

Image

But then, why aren’t we just doing our Sprite comic?

Captain’s Log 0210404.095: Re-re-evaluation

My comic making test has been a resounding success. And yet, it’s too high effort. I can spend a half hour to an hour on a single strip.

That’s fine for making a product I care about selling. In fact, I’d rather spend longer on it. But that’s too much for a first draft. I tried upping the quality and I love it, and yet I also hate it. I don’t want to pour an hour each day into prototyping two strips worth of stuff. I don’t want to constantly redraw characters and backgrounds for strips that might not even see use.

But the pixel art sprite comic also doesn’t work for me because I need to be disconnected and analogue when prototyping.

Basically, the part where I draw this whole comic almost needs to be phase 2 of the process rather than phase 1. I need something even more off the cuff for the prototype. I need something where a single comic is gonna take 10 minutes instead of 30 to 60.

I have considered, before, making a blank monthly journal that I send off to KDP and have them print for me. Give ’em page numbers and an index in the front, and I can just have a shelf in my house that has all of my storm brains findable.

But now I’m remembering the Slip Box stuff I worked with last fall, and I’m considering whether I might be able to combine all these notions and make a system that works for me.

Make initial comics on my cards, one panel per card, with art and writing that makes Cyanide and Happiness look formal and polished. Then, from the stack, put the effort into only those Bunny Trail Junction elements that want to move forward on.

Anyhow, I need to tinker around with it today. So, I guess I’ll get back to ya.

ADH-Let’s Ride Bikes!

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.

I’m willing to settle for less for me.

Not so much for them.

Captain’s Log 0210430.111

On the last day of April, we are at 45 comics. Enough to have a backlog of a month, right? Well, technically, yes. I’d like to go another month before I pull the trigger so I can be more selective, but I’m very pleased with how I’m going.

My comic template has lines pre-scribed so I can divide the panels in half if I want. I tested that for the first time today.

It works well enough. Ideally, we’d export with that center strip transparent instead of white, but we’ll let it be for now.

At the moment, I have a pattern of 1 comic on my days off, and 2-5 on my days on. So far, it has balanced out so that on my days on, I scan in 4 comics, so that’s nice. The plan is to keep production ramped up for a month, then produce a book, a website, the subscription, etcetera.

The ultimate plan is to always do at least one strip a day to keep my backlog, but to work full time on projects like Awesome Moments, Last Legend, or what have you in one-month blocks, then switch to a month of going all out on the comic to keep the backlog up. The comic will always be available free online, and as cheap paperbacks, but those who want can subscribe to fund my undertakings, and then individual, higher quality projects will be prototyped in the comic, crowdfunded, and produced.

RE: ADHD Unleashed…

I have a few thoughts there, but we’ll come back to that after we get some chores handled.

Captain’s log: 0210423.064: Mini Knights?

So, on a lark, I decided to try printing out templates to just draw twitter/KDP formatted comics on. And the idea, then, was I would just draw whatever I felt like. Hopefully, with the constraint that I am just scribbling ideas down, I can generate 2 or more per day, and after a month or two, show up with the best 30.

After my visit with my man, Greg, last weekend, I decided that trying to make things cheaply and quick needed to take a back seat to considering why a thing is awesome and looking for the awesomeness. My man, Greg, said, of spending more time and effort on a project, “is that effort worthwhile?”

While I mulled it over, I tinkered with making an HD hand drawn game.

After debating it for a while, I realized that hand drawing a black and white, three panel comic is not bad. I just need to be focusing on creating the best thing I can rather than being as efficient as I can. So I jumped back on the train of trying to crank out 2+ comics a day. And this time, I just jumped into trying to make Jump the Shark / Crossover Arcade.

The art is getting nicer and nicer. There are some really good moments. I’m starting to be actually proud of some of the stuff I’m cranking out.

But the thing is, I’m not just alpha-testing my kids’ books as a comic. I’m dumping anything I think of on the page. I’m using this format to exorcise my inventions. Then I can further develop any that I consider worthwhile. So, interspersed with me laying down the start of a Jump the Shark story, this happens:

Cute V-Knights Game Concept

It’s getting added to the list of projects.

So, for the next few weeks, my plan is to keep cranking out comics, keep praying and considering my next move. When I’m active on producing a project, such as when I do the Kickstarter for Awesome Moments, I will aim at a maintenance pace of one comic per day. Otherwise I’ll try to alternate months of building up backlog (2+ per day) and months of maintaining. But today, I may, may work on creating an animated mini knight sprite instead.

Because I can’t find my pens. Which is pretty serious. And will be the focus of an intense search once the house is roused, but I’ve gone as far as I can without rousing the house, and I need to tap my creative hours while I still got ’em.

Update:

So, the first step in building a part-swap based character is what I call the Solar Guard. The Solar Guard is low resolution, and has as many spikes sticking out as far as possible, so that future characters drawn over the top of the solar guard have plenty of room for crests, ornamentation, and the like. That’s this guy:

And the solar guard for my robots?

I figured a spear and a shield would be a good way to get maximum size and make sure enough space was reserved in the picture, and this certainly looks cool but… I’m rethinking that. I’m starting to think I want to approach the arms differently. Create something more universal and less dedicated for the base arm, and have shields, spears, etcetera, fold out when used.

Cache Miss? Crossover Arcade? Alpha Test?

To be honest, I’m thinking of naming the comic Brain Dump, or else, ADHD On Purpose. My one guiding principle is I have no guiding principles. If I have a thought and my pens, down goes a 3-panel comic. My hope is that if I produce fast enough and many enough, eventually I will be able to curate quality stories out of a mountain of mostly trash drawings.

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.