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: 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 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.    ...

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Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Cocoon Year: Weeks 7 & 8

Digital art of a caterpillar munching its way out of a translucent eggshell. The caterpillar is chunky with a shiny black head, and little black grippy legs. Just the head of the caterpillar pokes out, while the rest of its body curls around inside of the shell. The egg rests on a nest of fine, curly milkweed hairs.

Cocoon Year: 1st half of February Summary
I started out strong, felt some lag, and came across an unexpected second wind while designing supplementary graphics for my pitch packet.

 

 

Cocoon Week 7

This week some client work landed on my hard drive. It may seem unethical of me to split my days in half for client work, but it doesn’t matter how I allot my time, so long as I hit my deadline. Typically, I’m only good for a 4-hour stretch of mechanical lettering. Any longer and I slow down, then make mistakes. It makes sense to start the day doing production work because by the middle of the day, I’ve lost focus on it and need to switch gears anyway. Developing my personal comics is great for that, and also related to my career.

I’m looking back on my pages and feeling really pleased with myself. My previous serious attempt at a comic, Amphiox, still felt iffy at this stage. It didn’t seem to matter how much I edited, re-sketched, or re-did the lines, it still felt somewhat amateur. However, I have over half a year of weekly anatomy drawing study under my belt, and it’s really showing. I’m not only drawing faster, it’s also showing up the way I want it to look. Perhaps this is my physical skill catching up with my aesthetic ‘eye’. Eventually that eye will once again speed ahead to something I can’t draw yet. For the time being both seem to be on equal terms.

Cropped shot of a heroic-looking Cleric Stone. This is black-and-white digital ink work looking up at him. He has a tyopgraphic halo that is on fire. He wears his hair in a series of braided box braids. Inscribed on the halo is the Latin phrase 'Flectere si nequeo superos acheronta movebo', translated below in text.

This page, sample seen here, was the messiest through the whole process, and now it’s one of my most favorites. Apparently, the trick with heroic upshots in cartoons is to draw the jawline anyway, even if it’s not correct to the perspective I’m referencing.

“Flectere si nequeo superos acheronta movebo.”
(If I cannot move Heaven, then I will raise Hell.)

As I was going I mentioned to Devin (spouse) that I’m no longer allowed to sit and stare at my InDesign file without doing anything. He responded that maybe I should enjoy looking at my project sometimes.

Fine, DEVIN.

As I worked this week, I discovered that Thursdays are going to be a problem while I have client work on my plate. I host a figure drawing study group on the Sequential Artists Network and it knocks out my entire morning. The very thing that’s making me better at making comics is…stopping me from making a comic! That’s all right, though. If I just accept this as part of my schedule then it’s easier to move along.

As far as breaks go, my schedule also needs to change as I fit client work in. I need one day every weekend where I do NO comic work at all, and one day where I choose what comics-related thing to focus on for the whole day. I’m allowed to draw or write, it just can’t be Warlock’d or client work. To be honest I haven’t officially ruled against ‘comics’ in general on the weekend, I just know I’m not in the mood to start another comics project. I did send in a small pitch for one of SAW’s nonfiction anthologies so I’m hoping that doesn’t burn me out.

No no, I’ve been doing pixel sprite art. Video game assets. Stuff like that. Things I can call ‘complete’ very quickly.

All that said and done, I’ve made great progress on my client work so far. Even better, I completed the inking and the lettering on my Warlock’d sample pages. I’m really happy with the tone that they convey, and how the layout interacts with the illustrations. I’m ending the week with the next caterpillar drawing for the post I’m going to make two weeks from now.

Cocoon Week 8

Client work feels slow, even in half-day bursts. The greatest part about this work is that I know how to do it, and that’s also the worst part. There’s no reason to ask anyone how to do anything, so I don’t get much collaboration. Revisions are mostly small nitpick things with little active discussion. It’s just busy work. It’s stuff I can do while listening to something else. There aren’t many thoughts going through my head while I do it.

Digital pixel art of a magnificent bird/fish monster. It's mostly pale off-white with luxurious blue and pink feathers. A decorative tail curls around its body while it stretches its wings. It's a combination of the pokémon, Milotic and Fearow.

Increasingly I’ve been fond of doing pixel art. There is a giant, fan-made RPG maker game that calls for over 200,000 individual 288×288 px sprites, and they’ve set up an automated art direction and QA process for it. It uses bots, post formatting, and artist vetting to make sure feedback is allowed. It’s not a perfect system and a lot of the art that gets through has varying quality. Surfing for feedback there feels really good, though. I wish more people would pick at my stuff. I think I’m just craving an environment where I can actively talk to someone else while working on a project.

That brings me back to Warlock’d, which felt awful to work on this week. No matter what I do to speed up the process, flatting never feels fun. However, if I ever want a chance at an environment where I can obsess over Warlock’d with someone else and we all get paid for it, flatting is what I must do. Flatting is also what I must do if I fail to pitch it well enough and it turns back into a webcomic (again…for the fourth or fifth time).

I’m not feeling great about my twelve sample pages as I wrap up the flatting. However, I also felt bad about flatting Amphiox. I think any freshly-flatted comic lacks all the carefully-plotted focal points since I haven’t set up any shading yet. A lot of the shapes are blending into each other and lack clarity. It makes it feel like there’s so, so very much work left to do on them, even though I’ve been working on them for weeks.

The only solid decision I’ve made is that Hell needs to be depicted as lifeless. For this I’m returning to my previously-scorned Vermeer-inspired color scheme, that largely hedges on grayscale, reds, and a little bit of gold. Here’s hoping it won’t be a turn-off, as Hell is featured in the very first page. However, I feel like being upfront about Hell’s aesthetic and purpose in the story is important. Otherwise I can’t imagine why someone would pick up a comic with ‘Hell’ in the subtitle. It’s ‘Warlock’d: To Hell, with Love’, not ‘Warlock’d: I Guess Hell Is Involved Somehow but Feel Free to Put it Back Down if it Makes You Uncomfortable’.

Another problem is how to handle firelight, and interior lighting in general. Medieval people did not have great interior lighting whatsoever. To make this feel natural I have to invoke braziers and torches and sunlight. I guess I have to trust that a print production designer later on will just shake their fist at me and some of my poor CMYK choices. Some of these colors are extremely dark!

So far loneliness is my biggest foe. I really want to talk to more people about my pitch. However, I’m worried I’ll get feedback that makes it harder to share to other people.  There’s always someone out there who wants to sharpen their fangs on a work-in-progress, for no reason other than an easy slam dunk. This is not to say that ‘Wow! I love it’ is all that helpful, either. What I really need is neutral shop-talk. Figuring out where my concept is confusing, cleaning up art, etc.

Over the weekend I consoled myself by expanding the sample pages into a full pitch packet document. I drew a stylized border to go around my synopsis page. For some reason being able to quickly make a border like this cheers me up a lot.

I’ve also decided to omit the glasses from future caterpillar artworks. It feels weird to be so snarky at myself when I’m putting in such an honest effort, and people seem to like just the caterpillar drawings on their own.

 

To Do Next Week:

  1. Shade and color sample pages
  2. Compile ‘Suspects’ character page
  3. Draw props
  4. Draw more caterpillar shenanigans
  5. Find someone to look at Warlock’d and not make me start over again.

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?