Afterlife

Afterlife

Full-color digital artwork of a vast, mossy landscape under a sky clobbering up with stormclouds. Two yi qi dinosaurs browse the moss near a black river. Overhead, a third yi qi swoops in from off-frame. The remains of a sauropod are overgrown with ferns and moss in the foreground. Off in the distance, it's difficult to tell where the mountains end and the clouds begin.

The Composition that Social Media Made

This piece didn’t start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them purple. I had a lot of help from NeolithicSheep, who shared my polls with enough people to give me good data to work from.

Dolling up a poll with emoji to make people want to click it is one thing, but the main force involved with garnering interactions is having friends with big followings on Twitter. I haven’t 100% figured out how to manipulate social media in my favor on my own, but this poll’s results sure turned out fun. I feel encouraged to set up other polls like this in the future. If you check out Shep’s twitter and enjoy his content, you can help him maintain heritage sheep and cattle breeds by pledging to his Patreon.

Comics Tip

Color Theory: Lightness and Darkness
When learning how to color, many beginning colorists are surprised to learn that at least one aspect of color theory can be picked up from doing grayscale (monochromatic) studies. The lightness and darkness of a color affects its depth and ability to catch the eye in any given composition. The way that light and dark colors pop out depend on their proximity to one another. Examples:

Digital artwork of a black composition with one white point, and a white composition with one black point.

In a very dark painting, seen on left, a light color will stick out as what you want the viewer to focus on. In a very light painting, seen on right, a dark color will stick out instead.

Digital artwork of a grayscale box. A white square and a black square are next to each other in the box, creating a point of interest.

It’s also important to keep midtone values in mind. The typical composition that utilizes midtones will gather  the darkest and lightest colors on a focal point. They will pop out at the viewer as an area they should look at. This is called an area of ‘high contrast’. 

Digitatl artwork of a checkerboard panel with nine black and white squares. One of the black squares is gray instead, creating a point of interest via scarcity.

…But this can be subverted in a very interesting way, such as making a high contrast black and white composition with one area of midtones.

Digital art of four different checkerboard squares. Each one is a different color, starting from monochromatic, to purple, to teal, to a yellow and purple variant at the end.

Monochromatic doesn’t mean ‘grayscale’, either. Monochromatic simply means ‘one color’. These aspects still apply even when a single color is used throughout a composition. Photoshop has a tool called ‘Gradient mapping’ which is useful for exploring monochromatic compositions and then harmlessly trying out different color schemes on top. It can be pushed to fantastical extremes, depending on the colors chosen, breaking it out of monochrome into a multicolor piece. Some artists use a Photoshop layer set to Overlay to hand-paint monochromatic compositions. I confess that my grasp on grayscale is not quite polished enough for this to work, and when I used this method I would add layers on top to deepen colors. For me, Overlay is too messy for comics coloring.

A version of the previously-described yi qi piece, but the only color used is purple.

My first attempt at coloring Afterlife was to use only purple, and color pick based on a palette. For a vision of the beyond, it turned out a little too lifeless, so I added a few spot colors here and there. I haven’t figured out whether this is an aspect of purple to be cold and dark like this. Red is probably easier to work with, so I’m keeping red in mind for a future monochromatic composition.

For another note on color theory, here is my writeup on how different hues of colors interact. If you play with both hues and with contrast, you’re bound to get some lovely color composition ideas.

DIgital lineart of the yi qi piece. Colors are omitted so that the viewer may supply their own here.‘Afterlife’ Coloring page licensed under CC BY NC 3.0.

 

Care to read more?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits.

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Making a New Graphic Novel Pitch: Terminal!After attending a comics event via SCBWI, I realized that my fantasy graphic novel Warlock’d was better off self-published. If I self-publish Warlock'd, I could teach myself how to make a graphic novel without the threat of...

Afterlife

Afterlife

The Composition that Social Media Made This piece didn't start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them...

Want to chat about this?

Our Little Editors: A Paw-fully Good Zine About Pets

Our Little Editors: A Paw-fully Good Zine About Pets

Digital artwork done in the style of a 14th century illuminated manuscript piece. A small calico cat is angrily plinking away at keys on a pipe organ, while passive-aggressive flowers curl and twist up to the cat's thoughts: "Mother!!!" the cat thinks, "Leave me alone. I am composing!!". The 'M' in 'mother' is lovingly painted and guilded like a medieval capital.

Our Little Editors Zine: Out Now!
My contribution to this pet zine is based off, of course, a medieval illumination. I swapped in my own cat for the striped white creature in the original, and expanded the floral treatment into some typography hanging overhead. Originally I did this as a one-off illustration for my own amusement, but then I heard about a small zine project and knew it could live there. I expanded the design and added more flowers and typography above the organ-playing cat.

Scan of a medieval illumination featuring a white cat angrily playing a little medieval pipe organ. Intense floral designs surround the cat.Hook of hours, France 15th century.
Bodleian, MS. Douce 80, fol. 106v

This zine is full of one-page observations about our pets. It spawned from a casual Friday Zoom hangout hosted by the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW). This zine was curated by Adrean Clark and Annie Mok. 32 artists banded together to make this zine. My work is featured on page 20.

As for the title, well…That was my suggestion! Like any good hands-on editor, my cats are destructive in the kindest of ways. This zine is freely available as a pdf file.

 

Click here to download
the FREE Zine!

Comics Tip

Digital self portrait of Adrean Clark, drawn by her. It's a simple but elegant sketch of herself with thick blue lines, holding her chin with one hand and going 'HMM!'Guest Tip by:
Adrean Clark

How to Organize a Zine
As I have no experience organizing zines, I decided to ask Adrean Clark about her experience compiling pieces and organizing them into a coherent collective whole. Here is what she has to say:

“Zines are meant to be a playground for ideas. They are different from books in that they allow you to experiment at a smaller scale with a broader range of finish (from scribbles to polished art).

If you’re making the contents of your own zine, then it’s a personal relationship between you and your reader. Your focus is on communicating with your audience. Anthology zines add extra layers to this relationship. You’ll be thinking about communicating within your own work, managing the contributors, and connecting with the audience.

A good anthology zine revolves around a clear concept. It has to be something that sparks interest for potential contributors – an idea that is easily explained in one or two sentences. What makes you excited to participate in a social project? What are some common ideas that could appeal to a broad range of artists? What would be interesting for people to read?

After the concept, decide on the format. Your contributors need to know what size, dpi, and medium to work in. Be detailed as to the deadline, where to submit the finished files, etc. If there is money involved, such as printing books, sales, etc. – it is extremely important to keep that information transparent with your contributors. Pay people on time.

I strongly suggest a signed agreement between you and the contributors, so that everyone is on the same page with expectations. You will spend a lot of time outside of your own contribution in communicating with people, so think carefully about how much time you want to commit to the project. It’s better to start with smaller collections and build up your skills from there than to try and swing for the fences with a huge Kickstarter-type project.

Personally, I enjoy doing anthologies because they’re a fun way to push my own work and socialize with other artists. It’s neat to see how people interpret ideas in their own ways. At the same time one has to be attentive to the dynamics of the project. It’s ok to scale things back or change gears if something isn’t working. Chalk it up to experience, and keep making art. :)”

Adrean Clark, ASL Deaf Author, Artist, and Advocate

So there you have it! To make a zine, make the zine. And remember to communicate with everyone who pitches in.

Care to read more?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits.

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Making a New Graphic Novel Pitch: Terminal!After attending a comics event via SCBWI, I realized that my fantasy graphic novel Warlock’d was better off self-published. If I self-publish Warlock'd, I could teach myself how to make a graphic novel without the threat of...

Afterlife

Afterlife

The Composition that Social Media Made This piece didn't start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them...

Want to chat about this?

Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Digital artwork of a half bee, half phoenix fantasy creature perched in a cherry tree. The Beenix is about a foot and a half tall, with a bee's thorax and six chitinous legs. It has six bee wings. A feathery tail sprouts from its behind and its head has a beak. The beenix is eating a cherry and tilting its head at the viewer. It has feathers on its antennae. This is one half of a collaboration with Adam Ma.

The Creation of a Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster
When I first approached Adam Ma about designing mechanics for the Beenix Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) monster, I had artwork and a jumbled text document full of features that blended phoenixes and bees. It was ‘lore’ in the worst sense — me blathering about exploding bee trees and cherry honey, having all of one or two experiences as a DnD player and understanding that ‘numbers good’. Overall I did not have a concept of how the Beenix would fit into a tabletop rpg campaign. I passed a link to Adam and was unsure if I should take him up on his offer of collaboration since the beenix was such a mess! I’d honestly been intending to partake of his professional Dungeon Master (DM) services. The moment Adam heard that it was a homebrew monster design to be released freely to the masses, like Oprah would, he grabbed all my Beenix fragments and ran off with them.

When Adam returned, he had a gorgeous pdf containing everything a DM needs to incorporate the Beenix into a DnD campaign. My intent was a creature that is suitable for low-level adventurers to encounter, but could scale up to a mid-level encounter. Not necessarily a hostile entity, but alien and requiring some patience when encountered. Adam translated my ideas into DnD concepts such as ‘swarming’ for multiple monsters. He gave the Beenix better DnD-specific context by ascribing them to an existing setting: the Faewilds. Adam also pushed the concept of the Beenix queen into not just an entity, but as a whole setting unto herself.

Digital black and white artwork of a giant, twisting tree, most like an oak in shape. It towers over mountains, the ruins of a village, and a pair of tiny horses.
Guess what? Beenixes turn into GIANT! TREES!

Adam ran the design through some balancing checks and now here it is, a free, cute, weird addition to any Faewild adventure that could use a little more glitter. I highly recommend developing adventures with Adam Ma. I had so much fun and I’m grateful he took my concept and ran this hard with it!

Click here to download the Beenix PDF

The PDF contains stats, lore, and artwork for the Beenix, and is licensed for non-profit DnD campaigns under CC-BY-NC 3.0.

Comics Tip

How to Digitally Color Diaphanous Insect Wings
Whether it’s a bee or a dragonfly, or a house fly, insect wings can be tricky to figure out because they are shiny, delicate, and transparent, all at the same time. To begin, we should look at a reference photo, courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo of a bee with the wings displayed clearly.

What we learn from this photo is that an insect wing has opaque parts with shiny transparent stuff in between those parts. How do we mimic this in a digital drawing? We’ll use masking and some hand-painting to nail the delicate insect wing look.

Digital artwork of the beenix wing with a 50% dark brown opacity fillThe opaque veins of the wing are filled with 100% opacity dark brown. A bee’s wing has an underlying dark sheen on the transparent cells. I’ve chosen to fill the cells with a dark brown set to 50% Multiply. This is still too dark and opaque, but it’s a good starting point.

Digital artwork of the semi-opaque dark brown layer with masking to provide an insect wing texture.
I set up a masking layer on the membrane which I’ve filled. A quick swipe with a soft brush set to black on the masking layer makes this look more like the light is passing through the wing in a more interesting way. I use a hard brush to define some sharp mid-tone highlights in the end of the wing.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with a 100% white layer fill.
I set up another layer on top of my brown layer, this time filled with 100% opacity white on normal. It will look like the white has obliterated the underlying brown layer, but that layer is intact underneath.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with the layer masking on top of the white layer, with various parts of the white masked to provide a texture that looks a lot like an insect wing.
A masking layer and some swipes with a 100% opacity black soft brush, then a 50% gray soft brush first soften the look into a gradient…and then I can pick out brighter mid-tone highlights with a sharp brush. For a final touch, I speckle the edge of the wing with sharp 100% pure white highlights, but only on the wing I really want to shine and shimmer.

Digital art of the beenix perched in the tree. It's lines only and ready to color!

Want to customize your Beenix? Here’s a CC-BY-NC 3.0 coloring page that is free to use for personal, non-profit DnD campaigns, as well as just relaxing with a half-bee, half-phoenix monstrosity.

Care to read more?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits.

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Making a New Graphic Novel Pitch: Terminal!After attending a comics event via SCBWI, I realized that my fantasy graphic novel Warlock’d was better off self-published. If I self-publish Warlock'd, I could teach myself how to make a graphic novel without the threat of...

Afterlife

Afterlife

The Composition that Social Media Made This piece didn't start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them...

Want to chat about this?

Biscuit Mountain

Biscuit Mountain

Digital comic depicting a bicycle outing by H. and their spouse, Devin. The top graphic is an embellished ‘Biscuit Mountain’ in an arc over a man climbing a mountain of American (not British) biscuits. Panel 1 depicts H. and Devin riding their bikes under an overpass on a road lush with trees and roadside buildings. Devin: I’m not going to get the Biscuit Mountain again. Panel 2 depicts H. and Devin taking off their helmets. Devin: It is an unreasonable amount of biscuits. Panel three has H. and Devin in a restaurant. H.: What’ll you get instead? Devin: Eh… Panel 4 shows the menu. The first entry is one biscuit on a plate, labeled ‘A reasonable amount of biscuits.’ The second entry is a pile of biscuits. It’s labeled ‘Biscuit mountain.’ Panel 5 has the waiter attempting to take Devin’s order. Waiter: Hi! Can I take your ord— Devin (interrupting): Biscuit Mountain!

This is a personal diary comic about one of many bike rides to this awesome breakfast place. Every time we go to this restaurant, my partner Devin claims he will not order the Biscuit Mountain. Every time we go, Devin orders the Biscuit Mountain. The denial is part of the ritual at this point.

Most diary comics are a lot simpler than this, and possibly funnier. I wanted the reader to feel like they were on a crisp spring bike ride under an overpass with me. So, I went for that feeling. This took a lot longer than drawing talking heads but I enjoyed the environmental practice and composition challenges of rendering people inside of a restaurant.

For reference, I ducked into Google Maps and took a screenshot of the street we bike up. For privacy purposes I will not be sharing the actual screenshot. I also did not trace it or use a ‘correct’ perspective grid. This was eyeballed for my own practice.

Comics Tip

Quick and Easy Perspective Grids in Photoshop
I didn’t use ‘true’ perspective grids in this comic, but here’s how to make them quickly in Photoshop if you’re doing environment studies.

 

First, establish a horizon line in your drawing.

Next, go to the ‘Shape’ tool and pick ‘Polygon Tool’ from the options.

Set up your polygon to have these values.

When you create your polygon with the Polygon Tool, it’s going to look like a big hairy star. I’m deliberately choosing not to acknowledge any double entendre, here.

Put the polygon’s center on the horizon line and make it bigger. Instant 1-pt perspective!


For a 2-pt perspective grid, try sliding the first star off the canvas. Add a second star off the other side of the canvas, also on the same horizon line. We keep the vanishing points off to the sides of the composition to avoid a ‘warped’ look to the resulting composition.


To convert your 2-pt perspective into 3-pt perspective, add a third star and drag it off the top or bottom of your canvas.

Have fun drawing goofy buildings!

Care to read more?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits.

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Making a New Graphic Novel Pitch: Terminal!After attending a comics event via SCBWI, I realized that my fantasy graphic novel Warlock’d was better off self-published. If I self-publish Warlock'd, I could teach myself how to make a graphic novel without the threat of...

Afterlife

Afterlife

The Composition that Social Media Made This piece didn't start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them...

Want to chat about this?

On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras

On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras

Digital artwork of two miniature teleoceras rhinocerouses, but with corgi coloring. One rhino perches on a fancy leather chair with a plushie and pillows and a blankie. The other rhino is eating kibble from a bowl labeled 'Petunia'. There are chew toys on the ground, and umbrellas with rhino-shaped handles in the background, and a portrait of the two rhinos hanging on the wall nearby. Clearly this person who owns these rhinos enjoys them a lot!

On the Care and Feeding of Teleoceras
Hello, new pet owner! Teleoceras is a miniature breed of rhinocerous with a big personality. If you’ve never owned one before, they can be a handful. Multiple handfuls. Many many handfuls. 

Diet
Alfalfa kibble and hay are mainstays in any little rhino’s diet. Be sure to keep a steady stock of this at all times. They graze for hours at a time. Cheap and easy treats are carrots, avocados (which they devour whole, seed and all), and the occasional ice cube. Enrichment may be provided by burying their favorite foods under a layer of play-sand or earth.

Grooming
Teleoceras love a good mud bath. For best protection on long walks in the sun, allow them to roll about in the mud and then allow it to form a dry ‘cake’ over their skin. When the walk is over, the mud can be cracked with gentle palm pressure and brushed away. The mud also keeps insects away.

Surprisingly, Teleoceras have fragile feet. To prevent cracking of footpads, refrain from walking Teleoceras on hot surfaces such as asphalt in summer. If their feet become cracked, obtain a medicinal mud mix from your local veterinarian and give your rhino a quick mani-pedicure. When properly acclimated to having their feet handled, their toenails can (and should) be filed as well.

Enrichment
Teleoceras do well on their own or with a partner teleoceras. Armed with a large, sturdy rubber ball, a teleoceras can have a wild day, provided they also have ample space to run around in the sunshine. A good pond for swimming always goes over well, especially if it is allowed to turn into mud during the summer. Indoor teleoceras can be trained to use treadmills and burn off some extra energy. Well-meant but terrible toys for a teleoceras include above-ground pools, beach balls, and trampolines.

A bored teleoceras is a teleoceras who is knocking over walls in your house. If your mortgage is on the line, consider a cat instead.

Training
Teleoceras have low eyesight and primarily rely on audio cues for training. Their senses of touch and taste can also be engaged with gentle touch-gestures and treats. Teleoceras do best in houses with static layouts and open doors. Woe to the owner who closes a previously-open door to one of these stubborn creatures…The door rarely wins.

Teleoceras can learn simple tricks. “Here” is a good starter command, useful for getting them to move to somewhere they are wanted, or away from elsewhere, where they are not wanted, as they are very heavy and therefore not good at cuddling, nor are they easy to drag around. Once trained to seek out a lowered hand (often with a treat hidden inside), a teleoceras rarely disobeys on purpose. “Slow” is also a good additional command for when a teleoceras is a bit too happy and charging with its full weight to meet a favorite human.

A Teleoceras often does not stop moving once started. Its momentum often spells the doom of anything in one’s way. Agility course training is not recommended.

It’s important to remember that modern Teleoceras are descended from much larger Ice Age megafauna. Teleoceras are very difficult to move when it is not their own idea. They must be acclimated to car rides over many exposure sessions. Carpeted ramps are recommended to help them safely climb into and out of vehicles, and to stay away from the gas and brake pedals. They are, perhaps fortunately, not too big on jumping.

Final Notes
To be a good neighbor, always keep your teleoceras firmly trained and either indoors or inside of a reinforced paddock. Leashes, harnesses, etc. are useless on these little creatures, although the bitey ones may be trained to be comfortable in a muzzle. Also, don’t forget to spay and neuter your pet. We don’t need any more feral rhinocerouses roaming through suburbia than we already have.

Good luck!

 

Comics Tip

Fast Flatting Saves Wrists
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to spend any amount of time re-tracing lines you’ve already drawn for an art piece just to fill it with flat colors. After experimenting fruitlessly with what was taught to me as the ‘correct’ ways to draw and color in photoshop, I threw it all out and came up with something dirt simple. Criminal, even. If you’ve worked with digital media for any sort of time, what I’m about to describe will make you feel deeply uncomfortable.

But the thing is? For the look I want? This flatting technique works.

And it’s awful. But in a fun way!

Quick Notes about DPI
Before I show you my technique, here are some quick tips about DPI (Dots Per Inch) from a printing perspective. The rule of thumb is everything printable needs to be 300 DPI or higher, or else it will print with pixellated feathering (also known as anti-aliasing, and this is not the first time I’ll bring it up, so remember this term). However, this is mostly applicable to objects you hold in your hand and can look at up close. Billboards are often printed at 72 dpi because they’re viewed from so far away, for instance.

So! Extrapolating from that knowledge, I asked myself, does anti-aliasing matter on a print document that is 300 DPI or higher?

I knew the answer to this from my work lettering, curiously enough! I am sometimes able to look at comic pages and there, I learned, that the lines on comics aren’t anti-aliased. They’re sharp pixels. When they print, the small pixels look the same as lines that are anti-aliased.

Ditch Anti-Aliasing, and Embrace the Pencil
That’s right, everyone. I use Pencil tool now. When I draw a closed shape…

Pixelly drawing of a smiley face
Duplicate the layer to preserve the lines on their own…

The smiley face has a pink fill now!

I can use the fill tool like a child with MSPaint on the extra layer, and love it.

The smiley face has marching ants, indicating that I've selected the pink fill.
This even makes it easily selectable for extra shading and detail!

Digital artwork of the two rhinos featured at the beginning of the post. Instead of being fully colored, they are lineart ready for coloring.The above lineart has no anti-aliasing and is ready for fill tool!
The lineart is licensed under CC-BY-NA-3.0.

Care to read more?

Gastronomy Chart

Gastronomy Chart

This one-shot editorial illustration represents mashups of foods that I personally enjoy and celestial bodies. I wanted to make a large print for sale in-person at conventions. Someday, I may open an online shop as well, but for now this exists as an exercise in creating a compelling illustration out of lots of fiddly bits.

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Terminal: My New Graphic Novel Pitch

Making a New Graphic Novel Pitch: Terminal!After attending a comics event via SCBWI, I realized that my fantasy graphic novel Warlock’d was better off self-published. If I self-publish Warlock'd, I could teach myself how to make a graphic novel without the threat of...

Afterlife

Afterlife

The Composition that Social Media Made This piece didn't start out as a reflection of some unrelated personal stuff that happened to me lately. It was defined via a Twitter poll where voters decided I was going to draw yi qi dinosaurs next to a stream and color them...

Want to chat about this?