Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Digital art of a small monarch butterfly caterpillar creeping up a milkweed leaf and eating it as it goes. The style of the art is crisp thin outlines with cel shading. The caterpillar is peach with black rings around its body, a black face with shiny eyes, and little bitty nubs for antennae. The milkweed leaf is rendered with seafoam/aqua tones. The watermark on the image reads: 'http://hmcgill.art'.

Cocoon Year: April Summary
These weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.

 

 

Cocoon Week 15

My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart stage. Since some of my roughs have to be done on iPad, sometimes I’ll take a panel to lineart before everything else is roughed. This also forces me to make decisions and keep to those decisions. No walking anything back.

Screenshot of a page during the 'blorp art' stage. If you squint, you can see what looks like a lopsided key in the top panel, and a doodle of a prison from beyond the barbed wire fence in the bottom panel.

This page in particular went through some interesting changes from the ‘blorp art’ stage. At first I envisioned art that strictly referenced a front-on photograph of Washington State prison online. This would have allowed me to very accurately depict a prison compound and not have to invent anything about it. However, I had some concerns over copyright and what this prison actually looks like. Many photographs of this place don’t look the same as each other.

Sketch of a two-panel comic page. The top panel has a modern housekey drawn more competently, with ridges and details. The bottom panel's prison sketch is more refined than prior, but still lacking in interesting qualities. It just looks boring. Too many horizontal and vertical lines.

I didn’t quite get the sense that I was referencing the photo correctly here. Neither did the composition say much other than: Prison. Barbed wire between viewer and prison. My initial idea was to use a very subtle 3-pt perspective grid to make this slightly more interesting. As I played with the grid tool something else emerged.

An even more refined version of the page above. The key has been properly outlined with clean lineart. The prison, meanwhile, has sketchy structural lines putting the viewer far below the prison and a large barbed wire fence, looking up at the institution's imposing stature.

The new layout makes the place look more imposing, and it lends a Z-shape to the imagery within the panel. As a comics layout artist I’m always looking for subtle paths to lead the eye to the next bit of text. I don’t do the typical Sunday Funnies layouts where text appears in the same place every panel. So, I need to hunt for angles that play into the order that people read things. I love to load up my illustrations with luscious detail but that doesn’t matter if the reader can’t find their way to the next bit of text.

Finally I let the barbed wire form a barrier between the reader and the prison. I think popping out elements of an illustration from a panel really sets off the mood for this page’s concept and manner.

How the page is currently looking with complete lineart: Both panels have crisp, thin lineart, ready for coloring. The barbed wire fence cuts through the entire bottom 1/3rd of the page and extends into the bleeds.

At the moment an earlier draft of my story is still percolating on the editor’s desk over at the Sequential Artists’ Workshop, but I feel confident about the story and art. Hopefully nothing needs changing.

I wrote some fast drafts of Warlock’d alongside all this, but nothing felt like it was ready to go. It’s a lot easier for me to edit than to produce so often I just have to shrug and trust myself to return with more wits about me.

Cocoon Week 16

Digital art of a barn swallow character named Margo perched in the dirt. The style is thin, delicate black lineart with cel shading that follows a clear light source. Being a barn swallow, Margo is deep  blue with semi-iridescent feathers, and orange patches on top of her head, around her throat, and along one wing wrist. Her feet are blue and her cream belly is largely hidden by the wings and feathers folded along her back. Margo has a cartoony, overly grumpy expression. Her black beak is set in a deep frown. The inner yellow skin of her mouth is slightly revealed as she croaks the word

Lately I’ve been depressed that I’ve had nothing to show online for Warlock’d, even though I have all this media that I can’t share. So, I drew Margo and patterned her after ‘Lying Cat’ from Saga. She’s so grumpy about crimes! People seem to think she is instead committing crimes, instead of investigating them. I’m not sure how much trouble a barn swallow can cause but this is Margo we’re talking about. She’ll find a way.

Margo is based on several conflating ideas: That the human soul is shaped like a bird, that demons can take on different forms, that demons are aerial in nature, that the souls of the dead can become demonic, or even that a demon can be shaped for a specific task by unnameable universal forces.

Also… … … talking birb! It funny when birb mad.

Writing is the aspect to this project for which I have the least confidence. I used to write a lot of character studies as a roleplaying teen but lining up events for a plot is no joke. Writing alone is also very different from writing with a partner or a group. A lot of times ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ characters need to be deliberately toned down for games because there are still social contracts in play; players need to feel safe from negative social consequences. The immediate feedback of a writing game is a huge pleasure and bestows the same benefits of just hanging out with friends.

Writing alone is…writing alone. You know? Just by yourself with no feedback. Also, it is difficult to get over the hurdle of making sure your characters are always following correct social contracts — a character who gets along well in a dressing room game or a play-by-post forum is actually a boring character in a book or other form of media. Since the reader doesn’t have a stake in the story, or a character of their own to bob back at the writer, I suppose it creates a safer boundary for the reader.

In roleplay some subjects shouldn’t be broached at all, but in books it’s okay to explore deeper because 1.) If the reader doesn’t finish a book it won’t insult the author directly and 2. ) Books come with summaries and warnings and won’t suddenly change or do something unexpected, unlike in a roleplaying writing game.

Which brings me to the idea of voyeuristic media vs. interactive media, and some thoughts from viewing an article on the state of graphic novel sales. A kidlit group I’m in discussed the phenomenon of Spiders Georg and how it relates to top-selling graphic novels, and I’m sadly inclined to agree. Dog Man and Smile are that one guy sitting in the cave eating tens of thousands more spiders than any normal person would. People still grow out of comics. There aren’t enough dragon graphic novels and there aren’t enough fantasy graphic novels and there aren’t enough romance graphic novels and graphic novels cost twenty bucks apiece and a fortune to produce.

On one hand, this is an empty market to explore. On the other, what sort of risk do I represent to someone who would acquire my graphic novel? It has to be written, edited, laid out, drawn, inked, colored, printed, distributed, reviewed, and read.

Suffice to say, I got to thinking about the sheer amount of medieval history information that I don’t know what to do with, and how I can present it in a fun story format. I’ve always felt the push and pull of readers who wanted more, and readers who wanted less. A comic can’t really go both ways. But…something electronic could.

Just imagine: Warlock’d: the JRPG! Readers explore at their own pace and examine objects, taking in information where they need it and ignoring it where they don’t. I could make some nice pixel art for it and wouldn’t have to worry about actually creating a physical object. Literally get five dollars for doing nothing if it’s up on Steam and someone buys a copy.

Don’t worry, I’m not being totally serious.

But the idea…I see the appeal.

In other news more and more of my Troubled Histories story is coming together. The hardest panel so far has been this cutaway/3 pt perspective scene where someone inside of a castle reacts to a noise coming from outside the castle. I’ve had to run this image back and forth from iPad to computer a few times. I really hope I can get all the lines done before May so I have plenty of time to color it all.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Do perspective guides on Troubled Histories pitch.
  2. Clean up my 5-page synopsis for Warlock’d.
  3. Try not to regret sending in my pitch ‘too early’.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: March and April SummaryThere was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock'd like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It's a risk but I will be fine.    ...

Want to chat about this?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Digital art of an arrangement of milkweed leaves, rendered in soft teal colors. It's a stack of leaves on a stem with one big leaf thrust into the foreground via foreshortening. All the veins can be seen in this one big oval leaf with a pointy end. Eating its tiny way through this leaf is a tiny caterpillar, near the tip. It has a lot of leaf to get through if it wants to become a proper butterfly.

Cocoon Year: March and April Summary
There was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock’d like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It’s a risk but I will be fine.

 

 

Cocoon Week 11

I heard nothing back on the Warlock’d pitch packet (not that I was expecting a quick response). I went ahead and put together a ‘blorp art’ draft of my Troubled Histories anthology. ‘Blorp Art’ looks like this. It’s for lettering and getting the layout to agree with the artwork. I draw it directly in InDesign with the pencil tool, on my Cintiq tablet.

Screenshot of four comics pages in grayscale, with very quick, gestural art under lettered speech balloons.

I sent this draft in for editing but a friend also offered to read it for me. I sent it to my friend who pointed out a lot of clarity issues and things I needed to think about. Even though I value the editor’s feedback over at the Sequential Artist’s Workshop, I hadn’t heard back from them, so I decided to work on the artwork and get the drawings set in stone. The story has wound up with a little background story that goes on under my narration and it didn’t quite make sense, so I’ve been wrangling it and trying to get it as polished as my main message.

Digital sketch of a very ornate old lock, meant to hold a church door closed. It has crosses sticking out of it everywhere, as well as guardian animal heads and ironwork creatures twining around each other. A large crude keyhole is in the center of the lock.

Here’s the rough of my ‘cover’ page for the anthology. I’ve well and truly fallen in love with this 12th century lock that used to be on a church — perfectly conveys the meaning of ‘security theatricality’. This lock would be simple to pick, but you don’t want to make the person who owns such a fancy lock angry, would you? There’s so many dragons guarding this place…

Cocoon Week 14

I made the executive decision to proceed with working on Warlock’d as if it is not out on pitch. I need a rough script anyway. Back to my usual hijinx with a Trello board and Google Docs links, then!

Screenshot of a Trello board with stacks of digital notecards in columns. The background is a wood texture with metal studs poking through.

I like separating the story into arcs because I feel like, within a larger narrative, the reader looks for ups and downs, but they may not keep track of every single detail. ‘Oh yeah’ moments and other twists do need to be obvious but they can’t be hidden in flavor descriptions, small character interactions, or other unfair nooks in the story. Arcs set something up, bring the reader somewhere new, and resolve a setup so the reader no longer has to worry about that information as they read. After I make an outline and a detailed synopsis, I like to separate out arcs and then name them.

The arc labels could work as chapter names, but there’s only so much room in a graphic novel so I typically don’t like to separate longer stories into chapters. Separating them spends a page per chapter and every single page matters in such a visual medium.

Ideally, I want to have a rough draft of the whole graphic novel ready for whenever I secure an agent. I have several rough drafts in the past but this is the first draft that feels like it’s snapping and like I won’t regret adding detailed art to it. The writing gets riskier the closer to polished it becomes, because editors may want to have a say in what I’m writing. If it hits layout stage then it’s extra difficult to edit. However, I still think that treating this like a webcomic is my best bet moving forward. Nobody gets to dictate what I get done until they buy it!

I’ve been flipping between Warlock’d scriptwriting and more detailed roughs on my Troubled Histories project. I got notes back from the editors that matched my friend’s notes fairly closely, so I sent in a new version of my anthology submission that has more drawings on it.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Do perspective guides on Troubled Histories pitch.
  2. Clean up my 5-page synopsis for Warlock’d.
  3. Try not to regret sending in my pitch ‘too early’.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: March and April SummaryThere was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock'd like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It's a risk but I will be fine.    ...

Want to chat about this?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 11 & 12

Cocoon Year: Weeks 11 & 12

Digital art of a teeny tiny baby monarch butterfly caterpillar chowing down on its own eggshell. The caterpillar stands on microscopic milkweed fibers and lifts the eggshell overhead, chomping away. The caterpillar is light peach in color, with a black head, black legs, and black spikes running down its body in rows. Its butt is facing the viewer. The eggshell and the milkweed leaf are seafoam green. A watermark in the corner reads: http://hmcgill.art

Cocoon Year: 2nd Half of March Summary
This is the week I completed all of the art and writing for my pitch packet…at least, completed it enough to send it out. In that sense I’m emerging from my little microscopic shell, and now I have to focus on eating it.

 

 

Cocoon Week 11

This week was spent wrapping up additional character and prop art for my packet, as well as decorative borders to make it look more medieval. As I got closer and closer to the end of the pitch packet, it became harder and harder to work on. The next step after this is revealing it to people who don’t know me well, and who have no reason to love this on sight.

I went through all my writing, on both the short synopsis and the long synopsis, and added more to them where necessary. Lebeau’s new backstory has evolved into the tale of a saint with two skulls and an abandoned tomb. I scanned more through the book on serfdom and slavery, but didn’t find a whole lot more that would be specific to Lebeau’s case. I am also making an ‘historically inspired’ vs. ‘historically accurate’ decision to assume that if Lebeau can live in Paris and prove themself a good citizen, they’ll be free from tending an old tomb for the rest of their days. I don’t know specifically what law in Paris existed to accommodate this. Since it’s such a melting pot of a town I assume that King-appointed leadership might decide to protect its citizens, no matter where they came from.

The only Capesian law I do know about is one protecting a widow’s right to keep her late husband’s land. This is not true throughout Europe as far as I can tell, but what was important about this law is that it indicates the people of the time were able to tell when someone in their society was vulnerable. Were they able to consistently enforce such a law? Now there’s the trouble. Not really, I would imagine. Just an absolute dumpster fire of dueling power structures and lack of resources going on there. While crime faced fewer negative deterrents I still have to believe that most people wouldn’t actively try to hurt each other for no reason. Otherwise, humanity wouldn’t have persisted for 800 more years.

Anyway! Most of this is guesswork that slants towards making a dramatic story. If I must jump to a conclusion then let it be an entertaining one. I only worry about how much historical information people tend to absorb from pop culture and entertainment media. There’s also the mistaken idea that ‘more suffering = more real’ and I’m hoping that some of Warlock’d’s core themes successfully point this out.

On that note, it reminds me of the story of a nasal spray vaccine that failed. I don’t know about you but I would love to get a nasal spray vaccine. However, people didn’t believe it worked because it didn’t hurt enough. I think the same attitude has been bleeding into fantasy and historical fiction reader tastes. If characters aren’t suffering enough, then it doesn’t feel real enough. I myself enjoy a good round of character-obliterating pain, probably far more than my intended audience would enjoy it, but at the end of the day any sort of conflict can be relatable as long as it’s punched-up enough.

I had to return the book on slavery half-read, because interlibrary loans are tough like that.

Cocoon Week 12

I began this week with a couple of query letter drafts and a final readthrough of my full synopsis. I think that’s all finally ‘there’. An actual story with stakes and a conflict and rising action and falling action and themes.

I really do not want to just…leave Warlock’d alone while it’s percolating. Do I have to? Maybe it’s time to noodle on an Amphiox sequel about adult Lyrat’s day job. Or, I could work on my middle-grade dinosaur pitch, or my adult romantic comedy/abominable fancy mashup set in an Italian Renaissance-ish fresco guild.

Yes, to be honest, it’s probably time to pull up a backroom project and examine that, then leave my schedule open for suggestions and edits on my pitch if I happen to get feedback.

I’ve also been dabbling more with pixel art and it’s become an enjoyable part of my day. Crowdsourced art direction is chaotic and not always helpful, but I like talking to people about craft. Every now and then someone absolutely ‘gets it’ and even if things get nitpicky it’s a lot better than being ignored. I call this ‘pixel art brain rot’ but Devin thinks it’s fine that I’m doing this.

I chose the first agent to query. A friend stepped in to help me when I was struggling with a query letter. They rearranged my sentences and it was magical of them. I uploaded all my stuff to a portal and clicked ‘submit’ for the first time. I’m not quite sure what to expect because my packet was designed a little bit differently from what the agent specifically wanted, but I also feel like I have more than what the agent usually requests.

In other news, I pitched to another Sequential Artists Workshop anthology (Troubled Histories). They’re not the type to turn pitches away so now I’m writing something about locks. Here’s how my editing is going with Karlo and Emma:

“Locks weren’t very good in the 12th century.

  1. There were few ways to combat thievery: You could pile all your valuables into one spot, making them more difficult to remove, or hide them, or petition your local ruler to do something about thieves.
  2. As far as security went, it was largely theatrical. Most castles never saw battle. Their size and shape implied fortification, which was enough to keep most thieves away. However, castles weren’t built on any foundation so most of them could be dismantled by a determined person with a shovel.
  3. Imprisonment in these structures is expensive and reserved for prisoners of note, not random misbehaving commoners.
  4. Therefore, you get records of inhumane punishments for thieves — mutilation or death — because there’s no other way to permanently deal with a thief. Even banishment wouldn’t necessarily keep a sentenced thief away.
  5. Today, locks are commonplace, and we don’t kill people for thievery. Even though mass production of locks means people can perfect techniques for opening a house uninvited, the very presence of a lock is enough to keep most intruders away, just by communicating privacy.
  6. However, we aren’t looking at better ways of dealing with thievery by dealing with root causes (poverty and mental illness)… we’re investing in prisons instead, which are just as expensive as they were in the distant past.
  7. Perhaps prisons are like castles, in that they look intimidating but can be dismantled by new ‘locks’, such as universal basic income and a wider availability of mental health services.

So, it’s an overly generalized view of locksmith/legal history and no citations at all. Maybe too complicated and in need of simplification.”

To which Karlo has already responded with the following advice, and I’m paraphrasing pretty baldly here:

 

 

“Please, H., you’re killing us. For the last time, do not do additional research.

Just make the damn comic.”

 

 

However, joke’s on him. I already requested an interlibrary loan of a book on locksmithing. I was meaning to look into it anyway!

I also think I may release the full version of my other anthology submission, from In the News, Again, on social media. Here it is in full:

Digital art comics page. It has three panels depicting how my 2019 Geek Girl Con went. Panel one:

Page two of a comic done with a digital artstyle. It has four panels and takes place in a lime-green convention hallway. Panel 1: Me and Devin rush up the escalator with all my con merchandise in tow. A graphical badge overlaid on the panel indicates the year and date: Nov. 5th, 2022. Me: Is anyone even gonna show up? Panel 2: I'm wandering out from my table to pet a live iguana perched on someone's head. They're using a motor scooter to get around and their helper is nearby. The hall looks extremely empty and tables ar every far away from each other, blockaded by black curtains. Narration: I sit here for ONE eight-hour day and I'm not sure what sales will be like... Me: Wow! I love your iguana! Narration: I make $600. Panel 3: Me on a simple pea-green background, holding cash in hand. Me: Neat! Panel 4: Me on a dramatic explosion background while I grip the money fiercely. I look dismayed. Me: Wait, what?!

 

 

I think I can do a lot better than this for Troubled Histories. I’ve already refined my lines to be a lot thinner. The coloring is more deliberate, clean. Weirdly, pixel art has opened my eyes to a lot of cel-shading tips, too. I’ll be sure to use them liberally in my comics from now on.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Contemplate which gear to switch to while I wait for word on Warlock’d.
  2. Roll up another query letter or two, depending on vibes.
  3. Work on my locksmithing comic.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: March and April SummaryThere was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock'd like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It's a risk but I will be fine.    ...

Want to chat about this?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 9 & 10

Cocoon Year: Weeks 9 & 10

Digital art of a newly-hatched monarch butterfly caterpillar crawling out of its shell for the first time. The shell is translucent, covered with dimples and ridges, with a slight sheen on top. It has a huge ripped hole in one side where the caterpillar exited. The caterpillar is a pale peach color with lines of black spines running down its body. Its legs and face are black as well. It crawls over an extrem closeup view of leaf fuzz, from a milkweed leaf. Where is our little friend headed? Text in the corner is a watermark: http://hmcgill.art

Cocoon Year: 2nd half of February, and a Bit of March Summary
This week became complex for me. I zoomed through my client work and started approaching the end of the pitch packet. As always happens when I have a complex project close to completion, I started slowing down — not because I had a lot of work left to do, but because I had so little work to do. I really, really was enjoying working on Warlock’d in earnest, in spite of the ups and downs.

 

 

Cocoon Week 9

I started bringing in my character profiles to the pitch packet. I have one page devoted to Cleric Stone, then one page devoted to demons, a page for supporting cast/murder mystery subjects, a page for a special character and twist in the story, and a page full of props because everyone who likes medieval stuff likes props, too.

I checked out a book on slavery which was…not exactly fun reading, but necessary. Lebeau’s backstory needed fleshing out. I’ve chosen to make them into a serf pursuing the life of a freeman. Paris was a place where people could expand their social boundaries and change their status in the world, as evidenced by the rise of a merchant class. To do this I figured I should look into how serfdom actually worked.

I read the overview of Slavery after Rome: 500-1100 (Alice Rio) and got through the first chapter on how people were made into slaves in the first place. What was most interesting to me was that, after being impoverished by slave traders, the typical thing a group of people would do is then turn on some other group of people and enslave them. It’s an evil that seems to spread that way. It’s also hard to describe people as ‘slaves vs. free’. My plan to incorporate the muddiness of being free or not is to reference it in Warlock’d as something an individual character goes through. After all, North/Western Europeans were supposedly against slavery, and yet serfdom was totally okay? Hmm. Really makes a person think.

The book itself is really clear and direct, much more so than many books on medieval history. I may have to type up a Goodreads review for it, in case anyone else needs a good resource on how this stuff worked back then. The parts that got to me emotionally were the aspects of women as slaves, the ancillae. This is a little dark for where I want to go with my caterpillar-themed comics blogging here but I did swear not to turn away from the honestly awful aspects of medieval life. There were terrible things going on! Just not the way pop culture tends to simplify and frame it!

Anyway I left most of the book unread after struggling through a little bit of it.

In terms of artwork, I moved in on the flatted colors and added shading here and there. I find that comics are easy to overwork. Not everything needs shading and highlights. Sometimes a character reads better when left flat. I really wrestled with the opening Hell page because my first attempt to shade it made in incomprehensible.

I also found myself bemoaning my overuse of purple in the middle pages. Purple is my Problem Color. I always want to use it, but I never use it well.

Cocoon Week 10

This week I returned to a portion of the process that I’m more comfortable doing: Book cover and lockup design! The following is not all of the work that I completed during this one week, but all of the versions of this cover leading up to the one I’ve decided will be in the final pitch packet. To everyone who ever nagged me about never including enough revisions in my blog: Can you just look at these, I’m doing it right here, stop making me anxious, thank you!

First version of a cover mockup for Warlock'd: To Hell, with Love. It's sedate with paper texture all over. Red bands cross it along the top and the bottom.A mass of wings spiral around the title lockup, blue like a barn swallow's but not arranged like the wings of any known bird. The feathers are shaded in the style of a medieval manuscript egg tempera painting. In the bottom band, rigid drawings of birdlike demon legs stamp across the ground, lending an Egyptian tone to the whole affair. Text at the bottom reads:

The very first attempt at making a cover design. I wanted to reference the Egyptian mythos that Christianity pulls from, as well as bring in multi-winged cosmic horror. Because…who doesn’t love multi-winged cosmic horrors? However the tone of this is all wrong. People might expect some paranormal romance and they might not be aware that this is a graphic novel, instead of a prose novel.

Second version of the cover to Warlock'd. It features a bright red border sparingly dotted with floral-ish golden symbols. Interior borders bear paper texture and a gold foil version of 'Warlock'd: To Hell with Love' lockup. A moth perches over the 'lock'd'. Another moth perches on the border. Margo perches at the bottom of the border, chomping a third moth. Behind her, in the snow, Paris burns all over. 'H. McGill' is written on the bottom of the layout under a small red flower.

To help my book look more like a graphic novel, I pulled in a character and glimpses of the setting. I’ve heard that red books sell better but who knows if that’s marketing superstition. It fits the color scheme of the comics. This red is its identity color and around which all color schemes revolve. It’s based off the feathers on Margo’s face. However, there’s not much storytelling going on…I guess there’s a bird who’s eating a moth. It’s not totally important to the story that she eats bugs. I have also greatly simplified my coloring process since I made this version of the cover so all that texturing isn’t going to be present in the comic pages.

Third version of the Warlock'd cover. This one has the same layout as the second version, but the grays have been turned into bright blues and the reds are punched up a lot. Margo is no longer perching but flying, with a devilish grin in her beak, down to Hell. Flames curl all around her and continue to Paris behind her. A golden flower rests over the 'lock'd' in the gold foil 'Warlock'd: To Hell, with Love' lockup.

After rewriting my synopsis a few times I had a better grip on Margo’s character, anyway. She is as proactive as a demon can be. I call this ‘action Margo’. I wanted to make it look like she actively had something to do with the fires in Paris, because she does! I also punched up the blues in the snow and I think it’s a much livelier color scheme. Many graphic novels sit back on their colors and I want Warlock’d to leap out. I left a lot of the framing elements intact for this one but as I was working on sample pages, I discovered that I was rendering fire completely differently than as depicted here.

My latest version of the book cover graphic. It's a digital illustration of a bright red, abstract frame around the image of a city (Paris) cloaked in snowy blue light. The city is on fire. In the foreground is Cleric Stone astride Margo the demonic barn swallow, riding her like a horse with reins made out of oversized wool thread. Margo grips a threadwinder in her claws. She is on fire and bringing the flames from the background to the foreground, where they flicker and grow. The text lockup overhead reads, in gold: 'Warlock'd', and an incomplete daisy wheel arcs over the 'lock'd'. The subtitle is in black: To Hell, with Love. Finally at the bottom, under a very small and complete daisy wheel, is 'H. McGill.'

Here is my final cover mockup, for now at least. Cleric Stone is a main character so he should be on the cover too. This is from a part of the story that many of my beta readers have felt is the most exciting part. I also re-did the lines on Margo with a higher dpi so that she would look as delicate as she does in the comic sample pages. I finally got rid of the fake gold foil effect because I would never want something like that illustrated on a cover, and even if this got printed and published I would not be guaranteed to get gold foil. Finally, I ditched Cloudsplitter for the title typography and replaced it with my favorite serif, Alegreya. This is as best as I can do for now so I’m going to use this in the pitch packet.

Okay. This packet’s getting too real now. The pages are all wrapped up. I should feel happy and proud, and I do, when I look at them. But, I don’t like stepping away and doing other things.

The coloring process went well. I marked three different color schemes throughout the twelve sample pages. I gave myself time to figure out each color scheme. One scheme is very dramatic and wild compared to the other two schemes. I’m not sure how jarring it will be to an outside viewer. I checked on the wild color scheme by itself and it works… but that’s the thing. When inside of the packet as a whole, will it clash with the more natural/understated color schemes I selected for other settings? Or will it show that the colors can expand in a really inventive way?

Client work has gotten vmore tedious than I’d like it to be. I was using Warlock’d as my ‘carrot’ to get through client work. I don’t know what I will fill the space with afterwards. I applied to a comics anthology with some thoughts on the history of locksmiths and prisons. But, I’m not sure how ‘fun’ that will be. I really did want to wholly work on Warlock’d and Warlock’d only through this year. I am dreading letting go of it, even if only for a little bit.

I didn’t feel very inspired to draw my caterpillar graphic this week. I keep putting it off. If I don’t have Warlock’d to work on, I may not need the caterpillars anymore since the art can be freely shared, and it’s easier to crop that for feature graphics on my blog.

I drew up a ‘props’ page featuring different items from Warlock’d’s story. As I was resizing them to look like they all belonged together, I discovered spaces to slip surprises for whomever browses my packet. Hopefully someday I can share this page publicly.

I have come to the philosophical conclusion that, even if I can’t share everything right now, I have this giant stock of images to share later if I need them. This is regardless of rejections or acceptances from agents and publishers.

Do I want to share my packet with trusted friends? Of course. But I am still afraid that I will get feedback that pulls one string to unravel the whole packet. I want to know if there are problems but I don’t want it to be a problem that destroys all of my progress.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Complete addenda in character packet, particularly character art.
  2. Export character art and write descriptions.
  3. Edit query letters and figure out who to query first (Probably the editor?)
  4. Perhaps ask for a lookover by editor and writer friends?
  5. Grieve the end of the project, for now.
  6. Draw a little wrinkly caterpillar to put on this blog post (which may already be complete at the time of posting this)

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Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: March and April SummaryThere was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock'd like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It's a risk but I will be fine.    ...

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Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Cocoon Year: Weeks 3 & 4

Digital artwork of an extreme closeup of a butterfly's pale green egg. The egg is ribbed down the sides with ridges and lines of indentations, softly shiny. The egg is nestled in the fine hairs of a milkweed leaf.</p>
<p>A black arrow points to the egg. Text over the arrow reads: "It's an egg! I swear!"</p>
<p>A watermark for http://hmcgill.art is present at the bottom of the piece.

Cocoon Year: January Week 3 & 4 Recap
These weeks felt sluggish at first. I was recovering from a very deep cut edit to my sample pages. I queried my peers for help and was greatly assisted. A big thank you to everyone who reached out when I asked, or who approached me with offers to help. I wasn’t at the top of my game for these two weeks, but I did feel less alone and that helped me feel much better.

Revisiting some older parts of my packet really helped. These two weeks, I focused on the ‘wow’ spread depicting the setting.

All in all I’m building my own personal excitement for this blog post series. I can share more art than I thought! Not all of it, but some very fun stuff.

 

Cocoon Week 3

Something in me reawakened, and I laid out the new version of sample pages. This version focuses on the relationship between Stone and Margo. There aren’t any other characters present in the scene. I gave the ‘blorp’ art version to kind friends who read things for me and tell me when something’s off. It’s still a little bit confusing in this stage but hopefully some line editing will help.

Some feedback that I got encouraged me to explore earlier in the story, to show more of Paris and give some context to Margo. This I can do, but I was really hoping to knock out rough art much sooner. I don’t think I’m going to blorp any art in on the earlier pages unless I can get some eyes on comparing the two scripts.

I also revisited the Warlock’d city spread…This is a drawing referenced from a 14th century painting, but with a WIP Notre Dame substituted in. The intent for this piece is to be an interior liner that leads readers into the story proper. This was the best drawing I could do, lacking visual resources from the 12th century proper. I’ve reworked this piece a few times and this time, I finally addressed the messy coloring found in the details of the piece. I found the progression in color theory very interesting.

Grungy, ashen-grey digital artwork on a two-page spread depicting the artist's best guess at a 12th century Parisian skyline. It's very very gray with hot pink highlights. It depicts a small person with a candle crossing a black Seine river, fleeing the city on the Îsle de la Cité. A tall bridge runs over this river. A title lockup reads:

My very first attempt, trying to control the contrast with a grayscale treatment and color overlay. It’s also painterly and overworked. It was fine enough at the time, but my understanding of color is much more nuanced now.

Digital art on a two-page spread depicting the artist's best guess at a 12th century Parisian skyline. Compared to the previous graphic, the colors are more clearly and cleanly divided into sections. A bluish grayscale is applied to the hills, clouds, and city buildings. Soft orange and yellow is used for the sky and reflecting Seine river. The 'Warlock'd title graphic is now black on a sunrise. The overall effect is still fairly dreary. and the clouds almost look the same as the city.

This attempt was a bit better. I removed most, but not all, of the soft brushing. It was inspired by a Vermeer palette, focusing on red being the star color. Feedback was that grayscale is not a big seller in the comics world. A lot of graphic novels are very limited in color or washed-out, which is also not to my taste. I think I can do better!

Two-page digital art spread of the author's best guess at what the 12th century Parisian skyline might have looked like. Set on a sweeping backdrop of heavenly clouds and rolling hills covered with snow, the city occupies most of the foreground. Towers mingle with homey buildings, encircled by a great wall. A bridge crosses over the Seine river. The water has taken on the orange and yellow glow of the sky. A title lockup is wreathed by clouds in the sky: Warlockd: To Hell, with Love.

This is the latest color scheme rendition. I removed all desaturated colors and I am very pleased that the snow is more snow-like. It was also easier to control the gradients of color once I discarded more of the soft brush. I only left the brush on parts meant to fade into the snow a bit more. I’m really happy with the points of interest I was able to create and this is going to be my reference for snow from here on out.

I grabbed and assembled different photographs of a caterpillar’s life cycle to create Cocoon Year graphics. It’s helpful for me to have a checklist of all the art I need to do. I’m hoping that these smaller pieces help me warm up on drawing whenever I do them. I am also going to learn way more about butterfly anatomy than I ever cared to know.

 

Cocoon Week 4

I started the week with a self-imposed break. I call it…No Comics Sunday! Saturday as well but that’s last week’s break. Lately I’ve been feeling slower and slower which means, even if I’m having fun, I need to step back. Getting 1 or 2 hours of work in every day is worse than getting more solid work done four or five days a week.

We went to a professional tea tasting and it was the perfect reset. Floating Leaves Tea is a shop we’ve frequented for years because it supplies incredible Taiwanese tea. What’s nice about these tea tastings is that we get to go and share her love of tea with none of the work involved in becoming skilled. It’s so nice to have a hobby rather than a drive. Did you know that tea can dance around the mouth, or rest on the tongue, depending on how it’s brewed? It can also be very minty and airy, or grassy, or floral, or ‘big’ or ‘small’, ephemeral or stalwart, and catch in the mouth, throat, chest, or stomach. We booked the whole afternoon for tea and caught up with the shop owner, who is always a delight.

Given time to reflect, I think there is a problem with how I seek and absorb reactions to my work. As a result, I am torn between respecting the feedback and effort of my peers and actually moving forward with the project. When this project lands on an agent’s or editor’s or publisher’s desk, they are going to have their own required changes and I will need to weigh those even more strongly than I weigh peer feedback. However, if I keep resetting my packet before querying, my pitch will never make it to anyone’s desk, so I just won’t know what specific agents and editors want. In any creative field, there is no good, no bad, no better, no worst, and no best…A work only has to clearly portray an idea, and then that either appeals to a specific audience, or it doesn’t.

With this in mind, I’m instituting a new rule for myself where I have to ask my peers ‘given a week’s deadline, how would your critique change?’. This seems like the kindest way to get more information and also move forward with the project. ‘Blue sky’ edits that completely reset the project are more useful when I get an official rejection or a revise/resubmit. I want to leave both options open because otherwise people might feel bad if they gave me the wrong feedback, and that’s quite the opposite! Everyone who has read my work has been most helpful. There is no wrong feedback, there is simply feedback that works better in response to different forces.

I asked other graphic novelists what their pitch packets looked like, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a 5-page synopsis is probably pushing patience in length. I need to make spot illustrations to break up the text. That or, I can really hone my one-page synopsis and let the detailed one be available upon request. From my peers I’ve learned that I can share snippets of my pitch packet, but I need to save the very special stuff for the submission packet. Fair enough. At least now I know I can share some imagery here fairly safely. Especially the stuff I cut from the packet!

One more bad habit of mine is to sit with the INDD document open and just…stare at it. I need to stop doing this.

In closing I’m going to share my favorite cut panel that was removed from a previous iteration of my sample comic pages. I feel like this is the best comic panel I’ve ever drawn, and I’m not even going to use it in the final packet!

Digital sketch of a starry-eyed, innocent-looking barn swallow. She has speech bubbles over her head. Text reads:

 

 

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Ride the incoming high, and not burn out.

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Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: April into MayI re-did my outline and dismantled my trello, just to set it up again for more writing madness. I have a definitive list of 20 scenes that I’d like to have in my story and now I’m going to see how they look all fleshed out.   Cocoon Week 17...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: Weeks 15 & 16

Cocoon Year: April SummaryThese weeks, frankly, saw a loss of focus, some deep questioning of what I’m doing, before ultimately returning to progress as normal.     Cocoon Week 15 My Troubled History anthology submission continues through the sketch and lineart...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: Weeks 13 & 14

Cocoon Year: March and April SummaryThere was some meandering and then I came to a conclusion by the second week. I will continue treating Warlock'd like it is a webcomic that I am developing in spite of being out on pitch. It's a risk but I will be fine.    ...

Want to chat about this?