Writing is Like…

Writing is Like…

Digital Comic about how weird writing is. Transcript is in blog post.

Just What Am I Doing With All These Phonetic Marks, Anyway?
I’ve been deep in the documents lately (hence the break in blog update schedule two weeks ago). A few different projects are being juggled with not much, visually, to show for them. Each one feels endless and hopeless. So, I designed a short project — a one-page diary comic — to give me that dopamine burst of finishing something. I also wanted to try out a couple of new stylizations in my art and I think they are fine. This and the rest of my creative struggles are perfectly fine fodder for future blogs, but for now, I leave this one thought abstracting the whole process altogether. I know I need help, but it feels so egotistical to ask my loved ones to read my work.

 


 

Comic Transcript:
This is a one-page digital comic with three panels. The first panel is of the author/illustrator in a gray hoodie covered with silver stars. They hold a pencil aloft. It sparks with colorful little stars.

Narration: Writing is like…

Panel 2: “Hello!” bursts out in 3D yellow letters. “Let me put vivid hallucinations directly into your brain!” These words meander through a psychedelic landscape of pink, blue, green, and yellow chaos, featuring an old-timey Saturn drawing; stars; a half-seal, half-pelican creature named Norman wearing a dapper hat and cane; a peeled banana; cheese; and a bucket full of pink slime. The panel ends with a very, very sharp pencil poised to poke into someone’s ear.

Panel 3: The author, in real life, demands that their partner, Devin, “Experience an emotion!” while threatening their ear with the pencil. Devin cowers over the manuscript. “I feel it! I feel it. wagh,” he says.

Comics Tip

A Little Bit Every Day
Writing and drawing are habits. The act of writing and drawing is more important than the results of writing and drawing, what with revisions and edits. When I first started writing, I thought I had to write at the speed at which I would read a story, and in the order that the story happened as well. This would lead to getting down large blocks of writing in a single day. I had so many Chapter 1’s and Prologues on floppy disks.

These were immaculately edited, as well. What was happening was, I would write while an idea was fresh. Upon returning after a full day of school, I would read what I had written. As I read my own work, I would judge the word choice and cadence, tweaking and editing as I went. Before I knew it, my free time was used up, and I would blame my lack of personal time for lack of progress on the writing. Fast forward past school, and various graduations, and even a lucky life where I don’t have to log a big block of hours every day — Somehow, more available time, and a flexible schedule, wasn’t resulting in more writing being done.

Hmm!

Here’s what’s working for me: Even if all I write in one day is one sentence, that’s enough. If I’m in a bad mood before I start writing, or during writing, I must write until I feel good again. If this means skipping scenes or swapping projects, so be it. I write, I win. It took years of practice, but now, every day, I put at least one new sentence down. I use other techniques to keep projects fresh and on track, but this is the biggest tool in my arsenal so far.

So far this works for 90% of the project, and then the last 10% feels like another 90% on top of that. I suppose I fall in love with the project and want it to be ‘open’ because it feels good to work on. It has led me to investigate shorter finish lines when it comes to my aesthetics and what counts as ‘complete.’

For instance, I’m not sure how much ‘value’ shading is adding for the time I have to spend doing it. At least, not on every panel. Maybe for special panels. Flat, simple coloring and compositions reliant on that are what I’m going to experiment with.

It would be nice to find more simplifications like this for my writing. To do that, I must practice. To practice, I must return to writing every day…Even a little bit is better than nothing.

 

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!For the month of August, I pledged to 'rough' 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren't necessarily polished. As I...

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

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Biscuit Mountain

Biscuit Mountain

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

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

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

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

Comics Tip

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

 

First, establish a horizon line in your drawing.

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

Set up your polygon to have these values.

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

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


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


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

Have fun drawing goofy buildings!

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!For the month of August, I pledged to 'rough' 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren't necessarily polished. As I...

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Want to chat about this?

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

SAW Graphic Novel Development Month 3/6

This month in the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), I explored making short comics as practice for the final pages in my graphic novel, Warlock’d. This comic in particular was completed for a Graphic Novel challenge hosted by the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). My entry didn’t go anywhere, but a couple of my peers were recognized for their excellent work, and they have allowed me to re-share their entries as well as links to their respective portfolios.

 

A two-page comic spread of teal, orange, and pink. In the first panel, Jade looks at a delicious mango hanging over head. In panel two, she climbs up a tree that spreads all the way across both pages. Then she sits in the branch and plucks the mango from the canopy. Panels 3-5 are devoted to peeling the delicious mango. The final panel depicts Jade enjoying her well-earned prize.

This memoir spread by Jade Vaughn, an Austin-based comics artist, depicts an exquisitely simple moment. I liked being able to experience the mango alongside Jade, after traveling up the tree alongside her. The layout has cinematic qualities and the color scheme is just juicy, there’s no other word for it. I can’t wait to see what other magical comics work Jade has in store!

 

Two-page horror comic by Suzanne Fiore Murata. It is drawn in grungy greens with red lettering on aged paper. Panel one is a bloody red splotch with narration written in it:

I was also pleasantly surprised to see Suzanne Fiore Murata’s horror-themed entry get a nod. Media for small kids frequently gets watered down by well-meaning adults, but comics are one of the safest spaces to experience fear and work through complicated feelings. I was already a fan of Suzanne’s work prior to this conference, so I loved that the judges agreed with me on the quality of her craft. Just love the textures, the mood, the lettering!! Very, very good.

 

Takeaways
The SCBWI Illustrator’s Day (Graphic Novel edition) was a nice nod towards graphic novels. Within SCBWI I’ve found it hard to find resources or events that welcome graphic novels, rather than prose books or picture books. That said, there was an implication that only people who were spotlit in the event should submit to the guest agents or publishers. Their tastes were very different from what I want to create, or where my art style is currently residing. I also would not feel great being a risky option for them to consider without having at least one complete graphic novel under my belt. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing success on a smaller scale first.

By far the most helpful feedback on this comic page came from my independent writing group, with a layout adjustment that I feel improved the clarity of the page. With regards to the SAW graphic novel intensive, this exercise did confirm that I want more technical feedback, both in volume and in intensity. However, it’s not fair of me to demand that of anyone in general within the network. It’s home to many people who are making comics as self-expression or who aren’t as keen on technique, for any number of valid reasons. I have also been enjoying it as more of an accountability/socializing thing. That said, I’m more likely to ask some of the friends I’ve made for critique over expecting anything too in-depth from my posts to the SAW course feed.

I’m also excited about getting to start on the final drawings and lines of Warlock’d in 2022, maybe even as early as December! Every time I work on something with lineart and coloring it feels good and natural, even though I still have some things to learn about the art.

Comics Tip

Art Contests, and When to Enter Them
Art contests are either opportunities to mingle with the art community at large, or straight-up scams. At their best, friendships are forged and skills are assessed. At their worst, institutions prey on amateur and entry-level creatives by offering one prize while soliciting as many entries as possible.

The key factors to consider when looking at an art contest are:

How will the art be used?
Is the institution going to use the submissions for profit? Logo design contests in particular are notorious about this. Why should a business get to use a logo as their trademarked identity for perpetuity if their prize is only a one-time prize payout? Logos and brand identity are worth a lot of money, more than most contests offer. If a business is going play fast and loose with its own identity, that’s not a good sign for both present and future professional involvement.

Is copyright retained by the entrant?
Some contests require entrants to forsake copyright on their work upon entry, causing all entries to become property of the contest holder. Do not do this! The work you create for a contest should remain yours upon conclusion of the contest, even (and especially) if it’s not chosen as the winner. No prize is worth forfeiting copyright upfront over.

Would I make this art anyway?
When looking at a contest, if it’s something I’d like to make outside of a contest, I’ll usually go for it. The contest gives a firm deadline that can be great motivation for just getting something done, even if it’s small.

In this instance of SCBWI’s memoir challenge, I needed more short comics as practice, the entries weren’t going to be used for any business enterprise, and I would retain my copyright after the event wrapped up. My chosen childhood memory may have been a little too weird or convoluted for this audience, but at least it’s an entry in my portfolio from which I can learn and move on.

…And yes, the depicted outfit in my comic was real. I’m sure that was the burning question on everyone’s mind!

Bless you, The 80’s. Never change.

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!For the month of August, I pledged to 'rough' 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren't necessarily polished. As I...

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Want to chat about this?

Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

This page is an exploration into not only the style of Jean Giraud (aka ‘Moebius’), but also my own personal style. At the time, I was looking for ways to pare down the amount of work per comic page. I defined aspects of my style to rely less on painterly polishing and more on reaching a state of ‘complete’ in a quantifiable way. During the coloring of this piece I looked into flatting colors instead of placing them on top of a gradient mapped grayscale painting. I realized that I preferred having more manual control over my colors so that I could push the emotional aspect of colors more, over the ‘realistic’ aspects. My first attempts at defining my own comic style was deeply work-intensive (see below).

 

Let’s see…Overwhelming noise, textures, weird human facial features, colors all over the place,
takes forever to paint…Not to forget the hilarious mispelling of my old homepage url in the corner…
Yeah, let’s not do this anymore! Let’s get simple!

 

Not only will simplifying my style help me produce a long-form comic in the first place, but it will also be easier to pull off last-minute revisions at the end. I developed this new style on this piece during a Zoom class offered by Push/Pull Seattle.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Want to examine another comic creator’s style? Here are some small aspects to look out for when analyzing a comic aesthetic. They may seem like superfluous details, but they all add up in a big way.

Layout
How thick are the panel borders? How thin are the borders of speech bubbles and narration blocs? How big are the gutters? The margins? The margins inside of text holding elements? Is text allowed to break the grid? Is artwork allowed to break the grid? I’ve been using rather thick outlines for the panels so that readers notice my layout and where my layout gets broken, but I may experiment with thinner outlines.

Line weight
Does the artist use thin lines? Big, chunky lines? Closed lines? Open lines? No lines at all? I picked up a technique from Moebius of uniformly thin, closed lineart, so that I could quickly and easily fill tool my flat colors underneath. My lines are set at 5px for 1200dpi fidelity.

 

Color Scheme
Does the artist carefully balance their colors for maximum impact? Or, are they a rampaging, zine-spewing punk who slap down whatever’s on hand? As I find harmonious color schemes easier to apply, I usually head to paletton.com to restrict the colors I’m using upfront.

 

Shading
Does the artist use spot black to shade with sharp, dark shadows? Do they use animation-like cel shading? Do they use soft shading? Do they use no shading at all? Do they use a combination of techniques? If so, where do they apply each technique? I leave most of my colors flat, but use a combination of cel- and soft shading on areas of focus.

 

Every drawing style trend is fleeting, so none of them truly go out of style forever. Don’t feel shy about analyzing your favorite comics styles, even if they’re guilty pleasures. Fear neither bean mouth nor sparkly eyes criticism. Whatever keeps you drawing is the best style for you!

Draw However You Want!
And respect your inspirations!

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!For the month of August, I pledged to 'rough' 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren't necessarily polished. As I...

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Want to chat about this?

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Way back in March of 2020, we were just still getting used to wearing masks in public spaces. My partner Devin and I wore matching cat masks made by his mother to the local supermarket by the lake. The cashier offered us a silly conversation so I decided to immortalize it in comic form. Sometimes a person is very cute and funny for no other reason than to be human…or was he a bear, like, for real?!

I imagine most stories from the lost year of 2020 will not be very amusing. It was a year of quiet, sweeping change. My focus on levity here is to give the reader a quick respite before they must go about their day.

Art software: Photoshop
Lettering software: InDesign
Typeface: Cloudsplitter by Blambot; hand-lettering by me

Comics Tip

Have you ever had this situation? Lots of fussy objects in the same composition, each requiring its own specific color, but it doesn’t really matter which color? Manually picking different colors annoys me, so I messed with the brush settings in Adobe Photoshop.

Color Dynamics
There’s this Brush Setting in Adobe Photoshop called ‘Color Dynamics’ and if configured as seen above, the brush will choose different colors based on my current foreground color per every press of the stylus. For my own use, I keep the amount of brightness and saturation jitters pretty low, and turn hue jitter completely off. This means every time I lift the brush, and tap it back on the screen, I get a slightly different color — pretty much within the range of what I want, but I exercised zero brain power to get it. And if I don’t like the color, all I have to do is lift the stylus and press it back down for a different one. That’s how I blow through hundreds of not-very-important objects that still need their own color identities. Thanks, computer!

 

“What’s a Foreground Color?”
I’m glad you asked. It’s the color represented by the box in front, and the color that reliably comes out of your brush when Color Dynamics aren’t active. If you check ‘Foreground/Background’ jitter in the Color Dynamics menu, your brush will randomly select colors in between the two colors defined here.

 


If you’d like to try Color Dynamics for yourself on the same panel I did, or create your own strategies for dealing with situations like this, feel free to grab this Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) coloring panel and pop it into the coloring program of your choice. I’d love to see what you do!

 

Bonus chaos
Try ticking ‘Apply Per Tip’…I dare you…

Care to read more?

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Complete, but Not Finished

I Completed a Monthly Challenge!For the month of August, I pledged to 'rough' 48 pages. Roughing a comic means to start drawing in the figures and backgrounds of each panel. Roughs are typically more polished than thumbnails, but they aren't necessarily polished. As I...

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

Amphiox Monthly Challenge: Setting the Stage

How to Draw a Whole New WorldOn August 15th, I was halfway through a self-appointed monthly comics challenge to create rough art for a 48-page short fantasy story. I'd been lenient with my goals, imagining that most of my time would be spent designing the environment...

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

Amphiox Comic – August Challenge Prep

A Break from the Webcomic DoldrumsI’ve been working hard on Warlock’d, but not in any capacity ready for public release. There is a lot of editing to be done on it (and has been done on it) and it gets overwhelming on a day-to-day basis. One issue has been that I’m...

Want to chat about this?