Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Fun with making Digital comics...???

As readers of my previous posts may be aware, I'm working on creating an efficient process to churn out my upcoming webcomic, A Brigand's Tale.

In the coming weeks I will be interviewing some other Aussie creators and picking their brains on how they get stuff done in my search to find (in my best anime voice) 'The Ultimate Technique of The Comic Making Process!'

I was going to use today's post to demonstrate my adventures of dabbling into digital artwork from woe to go, so far though as soon as I start using my PC to do art stuff there's a whole lot more woe than go.

As luck would have it, my tablet and stylus gave up the ghost early in the week, this is what I came up with before said hardware pooped itself:

The non pressure sensitive tablet really did not work out so great for me in this instance using Photoshop. However I do like some of this guy's visuals so its not bad for a first prototype. Not sure it has captured his flamboyance as a teleporting koala, but it's a start...

Changing landscape

So I normally do all my comic work in portrait format but my research indicates webcomics are much better in landscape. Mostly because you can see the whole page when you land there, avoiding people just leaving because as we all know scrolling down is too hard.

This is as far as I got before the aforementioned pen tablet died:

I found the brushes on Manga Studio to be pretty cool, however still not like the real thing (though generally I prefer using steel nibs).

I'm also having trouble figuring out appropriate line weights because when you zoom in & out its easy to lose sight of what needs to be thicker/thinner etc. Also not sure about colour, but as I was experimenting I thought "oh, what the heck!".

This was also meant to be an opening splash page, or at least an attempt at one. Further complicating the whole line weight thing.

Once again I made the rookie mistake of drawing from the hip instead of referencing, which is why there is no actual perspective at all in the page...

On the whole it turned out ok as a test (I wouldn't publish it like this) and I dig the idea of having a really rough 'pencils' layer and then digitally inking on a nice clean layer. There seems to be some good logic to the digital process for at least 2 really good reasons.

1) No messy piles of paper/ink/pencils etc filling up the dining table - thus avoiding the wrath of the wife, and the tidying up and then bringing it all back out again if we have guests who for some reason need to use the table...

2) The entire scan/cleanup stage is eliminated. For me this could be the greatest time saver ever. Allow me to elaborate, the art style for A Brigand's Tale was always intended to be Black & white, but with midtones created by ink washes

Here is an example of an early page before I decided to go landscape:

 I reckon it looks pretty good, BUT trying to clean up ink wash on Photoshop took about 4 hours a page, longer than actually drawing the page! Even then there are still areas that aren't right, for example the sword clash in panel 2 only has 1 sword, the other has been erased by my "cleaning up".

So I really need to spend less time in the transitioning stages and just getting the pages done.

If you haven't checked out abominable.cc please do, - it's an Eisner award winning webseries - entertainment wise it is brilliant, however its also instructional as Karl Kerschl manages to create a great wash effect using Photoshop. By so do proving that I want to do is quite possible. In future updates I will let you see how my attempts go.

Now I know that all seems lost for digital on the face of it, I mean my pen tablet is cactus. You folks must be thinking "is this guy gonna try the digital process with a mouse or something??"

Fear not dear reader, my savior is currently en route from Wacom and will be shipping to me week commencing 25th May.

What am I talking about why this of course:
the CINTIQ 13HD!!!!

Watch the showreel here:

Drawing directly on the screen should be the time saver I'm after. As always the blog will record the progress.

Feel free to comment, especially if you have an different experience, perspective or opinion, I will do my best to respond to them.

Til next week, remember - don't make excuses, make comics!


Next Week:

Work processes of a 700 plus page dynamo!

Follow me on Twitter: @TheDanTribe
All artwork is Trademark & copyright respective creators, artwork is used for review purposes only.

Monday, 13 May 2013

5 days with a Master

A large majority of the characters in my upcoming webcomic "A Brigand's Tale" were originated in the 1990's. I realised not long ago that some of the outfits were particularly dated and  uncool (this coming from a guy who has dress trackies to wear at special occasions, you could imagine how dorky these characters looked).

As fate would have it I happened on a tweet by Fil Barlow, for the pittance of a mere $55USD he would help you to design (or redesign) one of your own characters.

So what? I hear you think.

Um, think about your favourite cartoon series, got it? Ok, then Fil was involved in the character design. Here's a list of shows he was Lead character designer for: http://filbarlow.deviantart.com/art/just-in-case-you-needed-a-reminder-331527452?q=gallery%3Afilbarlow%2F30480824&qo=17

I was actually unaware of this signing up, I remember Fil's Zooniverse comic from an Ozcon flyer waaaay back in the 90's and always wanted to get that series, (which has now been rectified I hasten to add, get on it here: http://www.zoonitoons.com/hub/comics, I believe all first prints have been sold out but Fil is taking orders for the 2nd printing )

So when you get a chance to work with an Aussie comics legend AND a veteran of Character design you know you are in for some serious learning!!

Fil is a self taught artist but emphasised that studying nature is one of his favourite methods for getting the feel for the subject.

Since my character was based on a fox we set to drawing from reference.

This was something I didn't do regularly and is a classic rookie mistake

For the longest time I actually thought this was a form of 'cheating' and I should be able to draw straight from the top of my dome so I cant be accused of plagiarism.

The truth is that with the advent of Google, to not draw form some sort of reference is just plain lazy, also your stuff will look less believable compared to someone who has gone to the trouble of referencing, or "art 'reffing" in the industry parlance.

 Fil proceeded to bombard me with 'constructive criticism', crushing my self esteem to a degree but all the while telling me to "have fun with it".

Time is money

Fil's deal is simple - work together over 5 days and at the end have a finished product.

The cool thing about this is the deadline means you just have to get the work done.

After a hard days work, sitting down for 2 hours drawing multiple sketches of foxes and only marginally getting the feel for them was tiring.

About the 3rd night into it stuff finally started to click and we were away!

Mastery of the fundamentals

Fil is big on getting the basic construction right first. How the personality of the character is reflected in how it moves, how its parts all fit together, how the bones support the figure.

A handy thing was looking up an actual fox skeleton to reference things like the underlying structure of the head and how the bones all connect up.

The results 

It was hard to get used to Fil's teachings, because I was such a draw from the hip kind of guy, but working with him really taught me the value of both discipline and really understanding the physical constructs of anatomy.

While there's a way to go in updating the remaining cast and bringing them out of the 90's I am grateful to Fil that he taught me a  methodology I can now go through for all my creations to get both a better look and feel of the characters.

So here's the before of one of the supporting characters, the Sneakthief:

From "what animal is that supposed to be???" to "Oh my gosh, you can totally tell that's based on a fox!!"


Fil has ceased offering this particular class so I feel very grateful to him for taking so much time to give me a recipe for character creation I can take into "A Brigands Tale".

Next Week: Adventures in Digital

Thursday, 2 May 2013

6 Time saving tips when making comics

6 Time saving tips when making comics.

I'm not sure who will read this but its more of an accountability tool, where I can update the world on my creative process and progress, knowing as time to update the blog draws near, I need to,  to quote some guy whose name I don't know, "Don't make excuses, make comics".

Soooo, I'm working on a title that was previously featured in the now defunct single issue Anthology I self published, entitled "A Brigand's Tale". 

It did not sell well, and considering I got minimal feedback from the handful of people who actually bought it, it must have sucked real bad for there to be no comments forthcoming.

While this foray into print self publishing was fraught with problems, it also came with valuable learning experiences I figure I will share with you in this initial re-launch of my blog.

1) Don't collaborate, unless it's family- sounds nasty, but hear me out. People aren't identical, so that means whoever you decide to work with needs to be totally on the same level as you -or- as bitter experience has taught me, you will be the one pulling an all nighter re-lettering the book the night the file was supposed to be uploaded to the printers because the deadlines blew out and who ever proof- read it had no conception of spelling OR grammar. Independence means you need to know how to do it all, and that means production. 
Which seems to take longer in time than actually writing and drawing the darn thing.
The upside of this stance is you get to learn all aspects of production, so that when your brother publishes a way awesome book (which you can purchase here:http://theadventurers.bigcartel.comyou can help him avoid some of the pitfalls.

I'm working on a short back up story with one of the Adventurers cast, which is great because we do operate on the same wavelength, also as family - we can be honest with each other about editorial and no ones precious ego will be shattered, we are all just trying to produce the best stuff we can.

2) Limit the time you invest in others - if you choose to ignore point 1, at least listen to me here. In the recent past I owned & operated a comic book store, I tried to bring together a creative community so that artists could get together, draw and grow. I adopted the drink-and-draw concept that's quite popular nowadays and was lucky to get one other person to attend.
The point is you don't have enough time to waste trying to get other people to be excited about drawing, or comics if they cant do it themselves unsupervised.

While in the store, you become a captive to people who want to show you their art stuff. I was always polite and pointed out the aspects of their stuff I thought was good. Umpteen times I would offer pointers or tips, based on my experience of the market, and the general craft of storytelling, and as I recall, not one single person EVER heeded a word I said. 

So go ahead, build groups of people who can't motivate themselves, ignore every thing you say and suck precious time away from you doing your own stuff, or don't - and actually get your project done.

3) Story specifics. My tale is set in an all new world, therefore dont start off with the massive epic, start off with a series of smaller stories that introduce the main characters and aspects of the world. It will be much easier the sell the epic part of your story when the readers arent totally confused about everything. This means a lot more time being spent in the writing stage and mapping out a flow of ideas in a logical fashion, but this time spent will pay off down the track when people can actually follow the story.

4) Do your experimenting before going live. Rest assured, as you grow as an artist your style will change over time, I'm talking about experimenting (like I did with different inking tools, shading tools, techiques etc virtually on every page) with very different things. It creates an inconsistent visual motif and is harder for readers to stay in the story.

5) Continue to improve your work process to increase producitivity.
I must admit I am still in the throes of getting it right but have made some leaps in logic.
I was really married to doing inks and ink wash in the traditional manner as my art style for this tale, however as soon as I had to scan, clean up and (maybe) colour the thing, I spent a week in photoshop still trying to clean up the art. This means  something has gotta give, so the thing can  actually get started and done.

6) Do it for yourself.
Savage dragon creator, Erik Larsen is often tweeting on message "if you arent doing a story you want to read, your doing it wrong" markets change, it used to be all about the vampires and now, zombies are all the rage. Who knows what the next fad will be but if you telling a ripper of a story that you like, its probable someone else will also like it.

While not an expert the above are the guidelines I'm currently applying to get stuff done.

This has meant a real 'back to the drawing board' time for me, which is annoying in that I need to send more time prepping stuff, but also good because the story will have an idea flow that isnt too much all at once and a consistent visual that I can achieve quickly.

On top of this I will shortly be attempting to go all digital in my work process purely to save time.

I have splashed out and ordered my self one of the new Cintiq 13HD's because I cant see any way to do this stuff digitally without basically being able to draw direct on screen.

It also means our dining table is clear of pencils, pens, inks, brushes etc so my wife is happy theres no mess, and I can actually keep track of everything on my computer.

If it's arrived by then, I will be sure to show you the results of my experimentation...

but for now here's a peek at some of the characters and pages that have all been redesigned or changed for the above reasons

On the left is the titular character and one of his associates as children...
One of the badguys, who has since been redesigned.

A mostly inked page since canned for a number of reasons...

til next week!