Cocoon Year: Weeks 21 & 22

Cocoon Year: Weeks 21 & 22

Digital art of a big, fat monarch butterfly caterpillar. It's covered in a cacophony of black, peach, and white stripes. It has big black feelers on its head and fake feelers on its butt. The remains of leaves that it has demolished in its everpresent hunger are scattered around where it steps.

Cocoon Year: A New Start
I keep saying I’m not going to restart the outline, but I wasn’t having any fun writing my rough draft and I think that’s a sign. Re-simplifying the story should help get the finish line closer.

 

Cocoon Week 21

I wrote things. Mostly, I went deep into Stone’s relationship with a new character named Jean. From the most recent discarded draft, I rescued an opening sequence where clerics in 1191 AD discuss that Christians believed the world would end in 1000 AD. I want to portray medieval people as being capable of skepticism. Without knowing any better, I’d say pop cultural belief that they were all unerringly and unquestioningly religious has roots in Victorian misconceptions at best and fascist propaganda at worst. I don’t think there has ever been a time where all humans in a given area have stringently and similarly believed the same things. In other words, ‘everybody was good and Christian in medieval times’ is not really a thing. I know that clerics would often express skepticism although this is a creative process blog so I’m not obligated to cite a particular thing.

I’m trying a new technique where I’ve defined the finish line as 125 pages of script. Screenplays are a lot lighter than prose, and 125 pages is the given length for a 90-minute movie. Since graphic novels are a little bit like movies, and I err towards cinematography rather than literature in mine, the screenplay length makes sense to me. It’s also not something I’ve tried before so the novelty helps keep me focused for the time being. I went through and added pages and page breaks for specific scenes I have in mind. I am also checking a cozy mystery beat sheet and hoping that the connections I’m seeing aren’t just like, when someone randomly overlays a Fibonacci spiral on top of random images to ‘prove’ that spirals are everywhere in art and in nature.

Digital diagram of a golden spiral confusingly laid on top of a photograph of a spiral staircase. The spirals do not match up. The proportions are outlined via number and graph lines, but this still doesn't make any sense, nor is it supposed to make sense.  Photograph by: https://pixabay.com/photos/gaiazoo-spiral-staircase-kerkrade-7844381/ Fibonacci spiral diagram by: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_spiral#/media/File:Fibonacci_Spiral.svg

Legend has it, if you stick a Fibonacci spiral on top of any image, the image becomes well-composed. (This is sarcasm.)

Maybe beat sheets are more like for beginners and once I have a better grasp on how to write well, I can remix them more effectively. That’s also how a lot of compositional rules work.

Already I’m seeing a lot more flexibility as I move chunks of script around. Trello should be more apt for this, right? Well, not really. Trello was probably just making the plots more detailed than they needed to be. Or, they just don’t work with my writing explorations, which are probably also part of my process as well. I’m sure plenty of writers have piles of pages they used to get to know the characters behind their stories. I know I am kind of annoyed when I see someone’s first draft and it’s clear that they haven’t explored anything outside of hitting outline beats. It’s also quite possible that my previous strategy of using Trello is no longer novel so now I’m grasping for reasons why I shouldn’t use it anymore. It’s still possible I might return to Trello or even real physical notecards but that technique would need some sharper rules to keep the scene count from ballooning out of control.

I started doing the final colors on my Troubled Histories anthology. This means taking flats and adding highlights and shadows. I’ve erred towards a lighter touch since these pages will be quite small, chapter-book sized. Overworking images or having too much shading and highlights can make otherwise simple imagery confusing. Having simplified my color selection and shading process helps make these a breeze, so long as I’ve flatted the panel correctly.

Lineart of a king in a throne room toasting a groveling peasant. The lines are thin. There are two other images of process, and the final image will more completely describe what is going on in this comic panel.

Lines. The color was actually added to the lines after I figured out the highlights and shadows, but I’m too lazy to show this in the image itself.

Flatted colors of the above lineart. It's mostly reds and golds, with blue for the focal point of the king. Full description of image is in the version below.

Flats, with some flats acting as highlights and shadows.

Fully-colored and detailed comic panel made with digital art. The style is cel-shaded with special attention to points of interest, and allowance of colors to sit flat with no shading in areas where there shouldn't be much interest. Overall, the panel is very threatening and red in color, with gold accents. A king sits on a throne in a blue cape. He toasts a groveling peasant with a golden chalice in his royal hand. The king is surrounded by helmeted, cloaked knights in crimson capes. This all takes place in a throne room lavishly decorated with red curtains, a podium decorated with paintings and gold leaf, a fancy throne with dragons on the arm rests, and marble tiles in a checkerboard pattern for flooring.

And now I get to define shapes and pull the panel out of ‘flat’ land.

Once coloring is done, the lettering finalization will take place. I am languishing on this project and would like to focus on other things (…Warlock’d…) so I am not feeling anything super fancy or experimental on the letters. This will be a completely normal comic which is fine.

One other thing about this week is that my spouse, in pursuit of mental health, popped open Unity and started doing some hobby-level game dev. I’ve been mildly obsessing over pixel art in my off time so I decided to give him little ‘treats’ in the form of pixel art that he can program to do silly things. We both enjoy games where characters change visually so I’m experimenting with a pixel ‘doll’ that can be dressed up as it goes on an adventure.

Digital pixel art of a naked, doll-like character. It is so simplified it doesn't even have eyes or a mouth, or a bellybutton. The art is intended to be seen at 32 by 32 pixels, but has been enlarged to three times the size so as not to be actually tiny on a webpage.

Nakey 32×32 adventures!

Cocoon Week 22

Digital art of a 12th century lock found on a church at one point in time. This square bronze lock has clearly seen wear and tear, but originally it was an ornately crafted piece with animals entwined in detailed bronzework. It has an enormous crude keyhole in the middle. Dragon heads sprout from its corners. The lock has been posed on a checkerboard-like pattern that alternates between different shades of maroon.

It’s complete! My Troubled Histories anthology entry, ‘We Need to Talk About Locks’ is done. I submitted it this week to remove it from my plate. It helped me refresh my experience with the gaudy Warlock’d palette and how to keep it under control, as well as where and when to expand it. I’m looking forward to seeing this in print although I do wish I’d had more passion for it.

Screenshot of a color palette organized around four bold bands of orangeish red, goldenrod, ultramarine blue, and a very pale, almost neon, seafoam green. There are sixteen other colors gathered around these four main colors, in various shades of darkness, lightness, and saturation. An unimportant hex code remains on the red band from where the cursor was hovering as I took the screenshot.

This is the palette! It’s based on jewel tones used in medieval art. They liked colors. They weren’t sad gray people shuffling around dingy brown cities.

Warlock’d is going interestingly. I’m really slowing down on scenes and letting the writing chew the scenery. Readers can learn more than one thing about a character at a time. Not all of it is important. I can waste people’s time a little bit. I want to give them the sensation of hanging out with a character and really getting to know them, perhaps being fond of them. My points of escalation have also, for lack of a better term, de-escalated, into smaller steps that are more easily portrayed by this little setting. This isn’t an epic fantasy where you need to know a lot about the setting. I’m also trying to be less snarky and more earnest. The humor ought to come from characters remarking on their situations, not from me making fun of weird medieval things.

One thing I’m doing is porting around bits of writing to different sections helter-skelter. If something feels like it should be revealed earlier, then I move it up earlier. Scenes where I don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet become pages with page breaks for later. So far I am sitting at 28/125 pages in my count and hope to make every page count towards the whole. This story may feel ‘slow’ as a result — maybe that’s fine. If I can keep scenes mostly familiar and only introduce some esoteric thing every few scenes that might be better for readers.

I was reading a draft of Idolon, the next story in my Amphiox world, and really hated how many new things I onboarded and explained. I think there’s also something to be said for presenting something without explanation as a ‘well what’s that thing’ and then explaining it later when it’s actually important. But. I do need to write Warlock’d and not Idolon.

So far Margot is a lot funnier as a living character so I hope that her death (and subsequent resurrection as a lost soul) is more interesting as a result. Currently it feels like the antagonistic church forces act too quickly for Stone to work alongside them willingly.

I have also decided that Stone is a burgher whose wealth comes from the gold trade — both selling and crafting. In other stories his status was frequently up in the air — was he an official demonologist? Aligned with the church? Outcast? A random ‘lay cleric’? The way southern kingdoms interacted with northern kingdoms in Europe was through trade. I’ve settled on gold as something that people would immediately recognize as a special part of medieval culture, and that would lend itself to Stone’s background, wealth, and power.

Most people think of medieval caste society as two castes. Royals and not-royals. Looking into this via Wikipedia (bless all wikipedia historians), the society was more formally recognized as three different worlds, that of laborers, royalty, and clergy. Clergy sort of had a subdivision between noble clergy (from the royal world) and lay clergy (from the laborer world). Then, burghers and craftsmen were experiencing more privilege during a mini-renaissance than other times, so this seemed like a good spot for Stone. He only gets pulled into the religious esoterica on behalf of his friend, Jean. The story transforms Stone into a private detective who isn’t beholden to the crown or to the cross. This sounds good to me so far. Who knows if it will change later, but it’s nice to have specifics.

Concerning Lebeau…They’re gone. This poor knight is now sequel fodder. Rest well, my dear enby knight.

In their place is a quasi-love interest and plot macguffin of a character who currently goes by the name of ‘Jean’, pending a name change. Jean is Stone’s close friend. In my head they have an extremely romantic relationship full of physical and verbal affection. Stone, however, is a very private person and would likely not have much in the way of sexual impulses, much less act out on them. So yes, clearly and openly gay, but due to character personalities and situations and medieval people in general being quite affectionate with each other, not a typical romantic relationship concerning sex. I’m really hoping no one misinterprets this as being sex-negative because I’m not, I just find it easier to make Stone asexual. I can understand a lack of interest in sex for oneself. Happy Pride month next week, I guess.

Jean himself seems to be a lay scholar who aspires to the Benedictine order as a monk. He is able to afford a Parisian education, so something in his background out to align with that. He and Stone met as scholars and became friends. That’s all I know about Jean so far. I made an ill-fated foray into researching what people might find sexy about tonsures on Bluesky and found a whole lot of bald thirst. I get what I deserve.

I feel like I need to keep up writing the draft until it is done so that another random direction doesn’t pull me elsewhere. Perfection is a fascist’s tool for keeping control, after all.

Game dev with my spouse has continued. I am having fun chewing on the problem of how to make tiling textures with organic edges. I wish writing problems were this interesting to me. I guess the more I learn the more interesting those problems will seem.

Screenshot of pixel art depicting a forest composed of neatly interlocking 32 by 32 pixel tiles. The trees are in all shapes and sizes and very organic, utilizing a manual anti-aliasing technique. They are a very understated shade of green, almost gray.

To Do Next Week:

  1. Writing!!!
  2. Web design for Codex Apis (short comics collection) (Didn’t get around to this)
  3. Or, web design for Warlock’d? Still haven’t gotten around to it. It still feels so far off!
  4. More pixel art for my beloved

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Allowing Synopses to Build on Each Other As I write, I learn new techniques for visualizing entire stories. Learning to understand synopses has been really important for me. One important thing I’ve learned about them is that they’re good for sharing with...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Finding the Character in Objects Writing progress became confused, dismal. I figured something out between the way I approach problems and the way my spouse approaches problems. When we play a puzzle game called Picross together, we often mess up the...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: A Retrospective of Drafts I really wish this wasn’t already halfway through the year. I’d hoped to have gotten started on the art part of my project instead of languishing on writing like I always do concerning Warlock’d. For both weeks, I decided to do a...

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Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Cocoon Year: 17 & 18

Digital art of a spray of milkweed leaves, done in a cartoony cel-shaded style with thin, uniform lineart. The plant has six visible leaves and little bits of leaf scattered about it. Running through the leaves is a trail made by a little caterpillar chomping its way through the plant. The caterpillar at the end of this trail is perched on the biggest, most prominent leaf, and is preparing to crawl onto the other side of the leaf, away from the viewer. The caterpillar's butt faces the viewer. It is peach with dark gray rings around its body.

Cocoon Year: April into May
I 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

Following advice from several readers, I re-simplified my story beats and made the murder mystery into a main thread from the beginning of the story all the way through to the end. This involved completely re-writing my five-page synopsis but I feel like it’s worth it. It’s the same story, but written more cleanly and without all the edits that I’d applied like a vulture ripping up a carcass. I was advised to arrange specific information in my story in a different format than the extended synopsis and I think that will work out well.

I know I swore never to let feedback rip my project back down to stage 1, but in text format it’s easy enough to do that, and I didn’t completely restart it. It’s still the same story, the mystery just reveals itself at the right time now (the end).

Screenshot of a Trello checklist item that's been expanded. At the top is a summary of the chapter. Appended to the card are multiple checklists of things I want to reveal about characters and stakes.

I have also included checklists of character beats, plot information, and stakes within each scene. Upon writing each of these scenes I’ve thrown the specific checklists out almost entirely, but they still help me keep the three aspects of storytelling in mind. I think if I were to do this again, I would write out the scene, and then list character, plot, and stakes after I wrote the scene.

The story still feels cluttered from glancing at the trello, but whenever I write scenes — it feels very fluid and easy. The scenes are between two and five pages apiece, quick ltitle reads. Writing might be like acting out a play or a script for me. Each rendition, I feel more fluid, like the information I want the reader to know escapes more easily. At its core, the writing has also returned to what I originally envisioned for this project, long ago: Light. Cheesy. Dark and more serious themes hidden offscreen.

I don’t have to have mastered story crafting in order to make something like this. It can be rough, it just has to exist. Otherwise I will never be able to move on. All I need is for the characters to show their motivations, for the interesting details to be clear and interesting, and for me to be able to move on to artwork. I really, really hope that writing gets easier. I can’t afford to spend this much time scripting future projects.

Since Warlock’d is still all about writing, I’m grateful for my anthology pages where I can keep my drawing skills sharp. This week I completed an extremely tricky panel featuring three-point perspective, a cutaway of a castle room, and two scenes going on at the same time but different distances away from each other, and in different parts of the same setting. The worst part about this one was having to bring it back into iPad Fresco several times to get the perspective right on details.

Digital scribble art of a panel, with rough placement for text bubbles and boxes. If you squint you can see a cutaway room and a distant wall, but it's very abstract here.

Initial ‘blorp’ art.

Lighter, whispier sketch lines make the scene somewhat more clear, although the proportions are in question and there's not much detail. The 3-pt perspective is also not quite correct.

Initial perspective blocking-in.

Extremely rough lines based on a 3-pt perspective grid. These look like they were drawn in pencil but it's actually drawn in Adobe Fresco, on iPad. Also seen here is an attempt to make a ghost window like there's a transparent wall there, but I ultimately scrapped the idea for complexity issues.

Initial roughs based on the perspective blocking, but it was still missing important details.

Digital lineart, half sketchy and half polished, of the cutout room scene in 3pt perspective. Some explorations into medieval interior design include hanging tapestries, a fancy desk with a cool wooden chair and angled writing surface, and a bed covered with luxurious fabrics.

Inking attempt #1…Didn’t quite have enough perspective information based on prior sketches, so I sketched in where I needed to re-line this.

One more go with digital penciling on Adobe Fresco. Not everything lined up with the perspective grid so I left a lot of lines off for later.

More perspective blocking-in…hopefully this time’s the charm!

Final lineart of the panel in 3-pt perspective. It features a collapsed tower and panicked soldiers in the background. High up in a cutaway room, a noble lady wonders what that sound was, but a guard prevents her from leaving the room.

Finally, lineart that works. Now may I finally move on?

For this week I’m happy to report small, if meaningful, progress on both projects.

Warlock’d Scripting:
-24 scenes Trello’d out and checklisted

Troubled Histories Anthology:
4/6 pages completely inked

 

Cocoon Week 18

Four ancient playing cards, depicting the six of coins, ten of polo wands, three of cups, and seven of swords. Creative commons image by Countakeshi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playing_card#/media/File:Mamluk_kanjifah_cards.png

Oh boy! I recently discovered what ‘may’ be the oldest playing cards in the world and I’m mightily inspired. I want to draw these as frames for character art for Warlock’d. I really need more Warlock’d art on my timeline because it makes me happy and people can finally get to know the characters.

Photograph of a graphite sketch of Stone in a modern gag sweater. It says

Also, it needs to not be like this (a silly meme). It needs to look less anachronistic. I can’t have people thinking Stone dresses in an 80’s gag sweater. (Don’t get me wrong. He would, but he doesn’t.)

Digital art done in a convincingly graphite-looking style of Cleric Stone, with expressive moody shading. He wears a black cape and a hat with feathers in it.

I also have this sketch of Stone that’s more elongated than the body type I eventually settled on. I’m also still rocky when it comes to really specific human anatomy which means I really ought to practice drawing my own characters more. It often feels weird or wasteful to draw them outside of pitching or an actual comic.

I like these characters! I think other people might like them too. It feels very vulnerable posting them on social media, especially when in the past I wasn’t great at drawing people. I worry that I’ve been inadvertently disrespectful by being incompetent (Sorry, Stone, your first few portraits were not great).

Digital sketches of skulls and mouth studies, messily arranged on top of each other.

Every week, I study human anatomy. So far I’ve gotten pretty good at rendering torsos and just need more finesse on facial expressions and limbs. I’d like to go faster but these are group studies that I host and people can only meet once per week, at best. My drawing study group copies diagrams from anatomy books for artists and it’s really sticking, because I can talk about what I’m drawing and share it with other people. What’s also neat is we have people of all ages and from all over the world who pop in and out. It’s a low-stakes, free drawing group so that means people can take breaks every week or so and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

In terms of writing, I’ve been reliably popping out one rough draft of a scene per day. This isn’t going to move the comic along fast enough for my tastes. I wonder if I can unlock some kind of writer’s high while I’m working on this. A lot of the subject matter just isn’t great for light, breezy writing; it’s actually an examination of justice and what that really means, in the context of a medieval setting. I’m also going to heavily edit before sharing it with a reader or two. I think I’ve got ‘my gang’ of people who reliably look at my work and point out problems in a way that I like.

Additionally, on Troubled Histories, wrapping up each stage of a comic process really takes forever! It’s that last ten percent and maintaining interest in it that does it for me. I’ve learned to accept this and allow my progress to be slow, so that I don’t cut it off altogether. However I’ve wrangled the most difficult panel of the comic so hopefully the rest is less painful.

Warlockd:
11/24 scenes drafted

Troubled Histories Anthology:
5/6 pages inked

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Writing!
  2. Web design for Codex Apis (short comics collection)
  3. Troubled Histories lineart finalization.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Allowing Synopses to Build on Each Other As I write, I learn new techniques for visualizing entire stories. Learning to understand synopses has been really important for me. One important thing I’ve learned about them is that they’re good for sharing with...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Finding the Character in Objects Writing progress became confused, dismal. I figured something out between the way I approach problems and the way my spouse approaches problems. When we play a puzzle game called Picross together, we often mess up the...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: A Retrospective of Drafts I really wish this wasn’t already halfway through the year. I’d hoped to have gotten started on the art part of my project instead of languishing on writing like I always do concerning Warlock’d. For both weeks, I decided to do a...

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Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Cocoon Year: Weeks 5 & 6

Digital spot art of a round butterfly egg. It is gelatinous and the seafoam-green shell is semitransparent. The egg nestles on the hairs of a milkweed leaf. Inside the egg, a caterpillar with a lumpy orange body and a black head is clearly developing. A pair of glasses has playfully been added, developing as a biological part of the caterpillar, apparently. Text on the bottom left reads: http://hmcgill.art

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February Summary
Mostly I mentally re-shuffled how I was going to approach the project, in terms of output and feedback. I picked up a lot of steam on the project as a result.

 

 

Cocoon Week 5

I started the week much less restricted about what work I was ‘allowed’ to do on my pitch packet. It helped to start on pages I had already inked in the prior draft, because the lines were there, they just needed to be finer fidelity. This was a good warmup for the rest of the pages. I roughed in a lot of settings and then, in panels where there weren’t any settings, I roughed in characters.

One thing that pleases me so far is how appealing I can make Cleric Stone look, at least to me. I’m going for a gender-fabulous, monkish/sorcerer vibe, and I think I’m getting there. Regular weekly practice drawing anatomy out of Anatomy for Sculptors (Zarins, Uldis; et al) over the past year has really helped. I’d done figure drawing and studied the human form before, but never had much technical practice. My 4-year college arts curriculum was not that rigorous, but I still regret to this day not going to one of my professor’s figure drawing classes for free. I’d been invited and everything.

I imported my comic page sketches into a lower-resolution Cloud document that I could open on my iPad in order to use Fresco’s perspective drawing tool. I still don’t know why desktop Photoshop does not have a perspective drawing tool. Fresco’s is special. It can ‘snap’ drawing strokes to a perspective grid, 2- or 3-point. However, Fresco can’t handle high resolution files, so that adds some steps to my process. It’s worth it for spot-on perspective art where it matters, but it’s still very slow and I’d like to find a faster way to render my backgrounds. It’s also nice to take a break from the office and curl up with my iPad. It gives me the vibes of being much younger and messing around with my sketchbook on my own.

Once I drew some 2-pt and 3-pt perspective ‘guides’ via Fresco, I brought them back into the regular Photoshop files. I had a day where I got a lot of work done, so much that I felt sad and tired at the end of the day. I had to sleep on it and come back to appreciate my progress in the morning. This is the part of the art creation process where I start questioning the writing, and questioning it, hard. Very dangerous to do halfway through the complete art! I must vow not to restart my pitch packet.

 

Cocoon Week 6

I took a break from all pitch packet stuff over the weekend. I thought I would be okay if I drew for other silly projects but no, I woke up Monday morning with a pinched ulnar nerve in my drawing hand. The sensation that a pinched ulnar nerve causes is different from the usual artist injury, which is carpal tunnel syndrome. My pinky goes numb and my wrist hurts whenever I perform fine motor movements. Only stretching and rest helps with this.

I must still draw. I received a book from an inter-library loan in order to draw the Louvre a bit more accurately. If I kept stretching, my nerve should be okay, and I should complete my Louvre drawing in time to return the book. It was a book that cost $50 on Amazon for some reason. Why buy that when I can snap a photo of a page from the library for free? Besides, it wasn’t even a big book, or a long one. It was like a 24 page picture book in length.

Properly armed with reference, some buddies were drawing in a comics discord so I popped in and shared my Paris-filled screen.

Digital artwork of a rough sketch of the city of Paris, with the Louvre prominently featuring on the horizon. A bird has been drawn in controlled lineart on top.

I immediately discovered a problem with the tower on the next page that I had already drawn and inked. What I thought was part of the Louvre was actually a tower along King Phillip Augustus’s wall. I’d thought that maybe it was fun symbolism for Stone to be off on the side of the Louvre rather than in the middle of it. However, he certainly wouldn’t be on the wall itself, and they wouldn’t keep their (highly valuable) budget documents out there, either. This was quite frustrating because I had already spent a lot of time embellishing the top of my Louvre tower with crenellations.

I reviewed the diagram. I found a note that there isn’t consensus on whether the towers had conical roofs or not. So some quick architectural speculation later and…

A more refined version of the previous digital sketch. This displays the Louvre more convincingly drawn, with the middle tower featuring crenellations and outer towers featuring conical roofs.

I think it works! That big central tower needed to stick out compared to the smaller Louvre towers around it. So, why not: It’s crenellated! And the other towers are pointy! Visual contrast! Hierarchy! No one can say I’m wrong, even if it’s not exactly correct, either.

With my pages in various states of completion, I found it more helpful to start working on them in numerical order. Usually I want to focus on one setting or one character at a time.

Photograph of three copies of the Ilona Andrews Clean Sweep graphic novel adaptation stacked on each other in an array. They're on a fuzzy bean bag texture.  The cover design features the blond heroine brandishing a broom and a spell circle, while her magic cape flows behind her into a hunky brown-haired male love interest. Lightning sparks out of the magic circle. A planet hangs behind them in a royal blue sky. Text in white, whimsical lettering on the book reads as follows: The Innkeeper Chronicles Clean Sweep: The Graphic Novel. Ilona Andrews: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author. Adapted by ChrossxXxRodes. Illustrator: Shinju Ageha. A 'Tapas' logo sits in an orange pill in the left corner.

Oh, and a production artwork project I did with Andrews McMeel came in. I had always wondered if my layouts were too wild but these do look like legitimate manga! It’s so funny too, I knew I’d done 252 pages here but seeing it in person, these books are huge! I could probably throw one at an acid-spitting alien dog and knock it out. This was a really encouraging moment for me because I always tend to look at my own layouts until my eyes cross.

 

 

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Create printer-friendly, pitch packet document layout.
  2. Finish up inking sample pages.
  3. Client work has returned! As a result my progress on the pitch packet will slow down somewhat. However, it won’t cause any nerve pinching for me to work on it since there’s not a lot of drawing.

Care to read more?

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Allowing Synopses to Build on Each Other As I write, I learn new techniques for visualizing entire stories. Learning to understand synopses has been really important for me. One important thing I’ve learned about them is that they’re good for sharing with...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Finding the Character in Objects Writing progress became confused, dismal. I figured something out between the way I approach problems and the way my spouse approaches problems. When we play a puzzle game called Picross together, we often mess up the...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: A Retrospective of Drafts I really wish this wasn’t already halfway through the year. I’d hoped to have gotten started on the art part of my project instead of languishing on writing like I always do concerning Warlock’d. For both weeks, I decided to do a...

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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: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Weeks 27 & 28

Cocoon Year: Allowing Synopses to Build on Each Other As I write, I learn new techniques for visualizing entire stories. Learning to understand synopses has been really important for me. One important thing I’ve learned about them is that they’re good for sharing with...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Weeks 25 & 26

Cocoon Year: Finding the Character in Objects Writing progress became confused, dismal. I figured something out between the way I approach problems and the way my spouse approaches problems. When we play a puzzle game called Picross together, we often mess up the...

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: Weeks 23 & 24

Cocoon Year: A Retrospective of Drafts I really wish this wasn’t already halfway through the year. I’d hoped to have gotten started on the art part of my project instead of languishing on writing like I always do concerning Warlock’d. For both weeks, I decided to do a...

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