Friday, December 07, 2012

An Introduction to 7" Kara

This is a long, involved post, so most of it'll be under the cut.

Although much of it hasn't quite filtered to the blog yet, I've been working on a lot of 7" Kara stuff the past two semesters. This last semester I finished the first chapter, eleven pages of full color, all in watercolor, plus two variant covers. I've been somewhat hit or miss in the photographic documentation of these pages, unfortunately, mainly because I worked two pages at a time, and there was always something to do. When working with watercolor, time is a major factor in your work- you're waiting for things to dry or you're working with things while they're still wet. When I'm in the thick of things, I am so involved with the piece that I often forget to stop and take photos, and I rarely work in optimal lighting conditions.



I've posted a couple process posts for Kara- thumbnails and roughs.  I figured those are safe, since they're far from finished and aren't even lettered.  I also did a process post for the cover variants.

I still have a few tweaks to make to Chapter 1 before I can begin releasing it as a webcomic, so you won't see finished pages for a while yet. But all this work with watercolor has really ignited a passion in me- I love working in color and watercolor is both financially and chronologically more efficient than my prior love, Copics. Although I still enjoy working with Copics, I can see myself dedicating a lot more time to watercolors in the future. I really love the effects that I'm able to achieve with just a little experimentation as well as all the happy little accidents that come along the way.




Kara began as a simple illustration- a mini person reading a comic, a cover for my mini comic anthology.
I liked the idea so much I decided to keep running with it, developing a little girl who was outgoing, curious, and friendly, adventuresome and eager to see the larger world.  A girl who'd been a bit sheltered by her parents figuring things out on her own.

For awhile, Kara just floated around my sketchbook and on various products (paperdolls, the covers of my mini anthology and my 2011-2012 ashcan) while I mulled the story over in my head.  I wanted it to be just right, since I planned to make it my next long-term project.

7" Kara seems like a perfect marriage of everything I love- adorable little girls, nostalgic settings, growing pains, and miniature people. It's no secret that I have been strongly influenced by works like Gulliver's Travels, The Borrowers, The Littles, The Indian in the Cupboard, and various fairytales from around the world. I don't consider Kara to be a retelling of any of these stories in particular, rather it stems from my own childhood. As a kid, I enjoyed catching lizards and salamanders, with little thought to how they felt about being captured. I'd catch frogs by the dozen and try to keep them as pets, with dismal results. As a teenager who still had an interest in herpetology, I was dismayed to learn that the oils on human hands actually inhibit how frogs and salamanders breathe through their skin. I feel like, no matter how kind or well meaning the person, we ALL force our beliefs and intentions on smaller, weaker others. 7" Kara is my way of telling a story that deals with this issue from the viewpoint of the victim, and maybe possibly making a little bit of atonement to all those creatures I unintentionally tortured through my overabundance of enthusiasm.

On the flip side, 7" Kara is also an opportunity to express my longterm obsession with tiny things. I have a theory that the majority of people are drawn to life in miniature, and so far, the response to Kara from my peers and classmates has proven me right. I love researching and designing the details of her daily life, the underpinnings of Lilliputian society, and finding out what sort of person Kara is and who she will become. I have sketchbooks full of worldbuilding that I'd love to share at some point, but don't want to shoehorn unnecessarily into the story. I hope to release a world bible when the story is complete, if only to satisfy my own obsession.

Because I plan on releasing 7" Kara as a weekly webcomic, I won't be posting the pages here. I will continue to update this blog as usual, with process, tutorials, reviews, and more, but I honestly feel that posting comics here is an awful choice. A blog is not the venue for a non-autobiographical comic, and I feel like 7" Kara should be allowed to stand on it's own.

General World Information:


Also known as ‘little people’, the ‘fair folk’, and ‘borrowers’, literate Lilliputians have borrowed the term from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.  Lilliputians hail from all corners of the globe, and can live independently from humans, although many choose not to.  In the United States, there is both a native population as well as an immigrant population of Lilliputians, which tend to be slower to integrate into existing populations than the humans they’ve travelled with. 
Lilliputians tend to live in three ways:
            Alone in the wilderness- Think early American pioneers, tend to cling to the ways of their country of origin.
            In villages in remote locations- Practice many of the traditions of their country of origin, but may have a mixture of cultures and tend to get more visitors.  Forest villages are very similar to those ascribed to gnomes, and may be the origin of that tale.
            In conjunction with humans, often without the humans knowing- Usually raid garbage, pantries, and storage rooms.  Tend to live beneath raised houses, in attics, and sometimes forgotten closets, but may also take up residence in sheds, garages, hollow trees, and abandoned animal holes.  Lilliputians living near humans tend to live fairly spread out in order not to attract attention.  Communication is done via messengers (who have an esteemed position in Lilliputian society, but tend to live shorter lives due to the risks of their job), and large groups of Lilliputians gather every three years in a secluded area for the Gathering, a three day event that includes a market to trade goods, music, and an evening dance.  This is when apprenticeships are arranged, most goods are purchased in person, and matches are secured for young Lilliputians.


 Abridged Synopsis of 7" Kara 


Kara and her parents live in patched up Victorian style dollhouse stored in the shed located in an overgrown yard that belongs to an unoccupied house.   Kara's life is pretty quiet, her family lives fairly far from other Lilliputian families, and on the rare occasion that a messenger visits her family, her parents often monopolize his time.  For the past few years, the current messenger's son has been accompanying him on his rounds, and Kara and Tanner have built up a friendship.  Kara's father often disappears for days on end, returning with luxuries like sugar and small fruits, and her mother works at home as a seamstress, sending finished pieces along with the messenger when he stops by.  One day, Tanner visits Kara's family alone, bringing news, and Kara's parents request that she fetch something from the garden.  While she's out there, Tanner reveals to the family that the big house has new occupants, and he recommends that they considering moving home.  Although Kara's father (who is a traditionalist) agrees, Kara's mother (who's family has had close ties with humans before) thinks they should hold out for awhile, as there are benefits to cohabitating with humans.   Kara's father breaks Lilliputian social protocol by asking Tanner to leave that night, revealing that Kara knows nothing about humans and he'd prefer to keep it that way.  Tanner obliges, passing through the garden on his way out, wishing Kara goodluck.

Changes begin happening in the yard outside their shed, starting with the jungle-lawn being mown.  Kara's father still has to venture out for supplies, but he cautions his daughter and wife to stay inside at all costs until he returns.  He returns several days later with a limp- he's twisted an ankle- and insists that they flee immediately.  Kara's mother refuses until his leg has healed, although she and Kara begin packing.
Kara is extremely confused by the proceedings, and demands that her mother explain.  Caught in a corner and eager to get the secret off her chest, her mother explains that her father is afraid of humans, and doesn't want the family to depend upon humans for survival, as it's dangerous.  Kara is incredulous- she thought humans were the stuff of fairytales, and she's upset that she's been lied to all those years.  That night, she lies in bed, wondering what else her parents have hidden from her.

She decides to sneak out and explore the outside world, and sets out early that morning.  She hasn't been outside the shed properly since the grass has been cut, and with the cut grass, she can see the big house clearly.  She's quite taken aback, and decides to push forward, setting the large concrete steps as her final goal.   Before she makes it, she's captured by a kitten (which seems like quite a ferocious beast to her).  When she wakes up, a large human girl is staring down at her.

Kara and the girl develop a friendship over several weeks, which culminates with Kara staying in the big house after she and her father have a fight.  Although Kara enjoys it at first, she grows homesick, and wants to return.  With the best of intentions, the girl denies Kara's request, and Kara begins to feel like a hostage.  Eventually Kara convinces her human friend to allow her to return to her parents, and they escape into the night.

Character Designs


Kara


Kara is a headstrong 10 year old Lilliputian girl who thinks humans are a myth (her father’s doing) and the world revolves around the shed their dollhouse is in.  She is very creative and curious, and has a tendency to get into trouble.  Kara occasionally helps her mother with the sewing, but prefers helping her father repair the dollhouse and tending the garden.  Kara has a pet house gecko and is good friends with the messenger’s son (and apprentice) Tanner.  Kara enjoys reading and doodling, and prefers bloomers to dresses (to her mother’s slight dismay).


Grab from Chapter 1


Rowan


Kara’s father is a general provider- he catches minnows, lizards, and mice to dry for winter, he makes repairs to the Victorian dollhouse they inhabit, he cultivates the garden that Kara and her mother tend in the spring.  Kara’s father’s family were distrustful of humans and lived on the outskirts of a forest Lilliputian village.  He’s stubborn, strong, and stoic.  He met Kara’s mother at a Gathering when they were teenagers, and though he doesn’t show it, she’s the real boss of the family.  He begrudgingly speaks English, mostly because his family was not quite native enough to speak Original Lilliputian.  He dislikes the moniker “Lilliputian” and discourages contact with humans.  He tends to be closeminded, and overly strict with Kara, trying to protect her. The only reason Kara’s family lives in the shed of an abandoned house in an older neighborhood is due to her mother’s influence.

Final concept for Kara's father, Rowan
Grab from Chapter 1


Meldina


Kara’s mother is a seamstress, and a good one at that.  Her family has always lived closely with humans, giving Meldina many opportunities other Lilliputians don’t have.  Meldina is literate in both common Lilliputian and English, and modifies human clothing patterns to suite Lilliputian sizes, making her quite popular.  The majority of trade that comes through the house is due to Meldina taking and fulfilling orders, giving her access to high quality goods like leather, velvet, and silk.  Meldina is chatty and outgoing, and encourages Kara’s headstrong tendencies.  Meldina would like a closer dependency on humans similar to the situation she grew up in (her parents lived in the Victorian dollhouse before they passed away, its where Meldina and her brothers grew up).


Final concept for Meldina, Kara's mother.
Grab from Chapter 1- Meldina with her hair up.


Tanner

Tanner is the apprentice and son of the local Lilliputian messenger, and at 12, he's finally allowed to deliver some messages on his own, particularly when his father is otherwise occupied.  He's the only Lilliputian child Kara has met, and she considers him to be a close friend.  The official messenger uniform consists of greens and browns in order to better blend in with the grass.


Final Tanner Concept
Grab from Chapter 1


Naomi

Naomi is a 14 year old human girl who's recently moved into the big house with her family.  She's caught between wanting the security of childhood and the freedom of adulthood.  Although she means well, she often makes poor decisions.



House Designs


Big House Map from Chapter 1

First pass at map of big house and back yard
Dollhouse Concept
Dollhouse from Chapter 1



I've done a lot of watercolor lately, so blog will be innundated with watercolor material, which I hope you find useful. I've already begun the necessary photography and organization for several tutorials, and plan on doing a watercolor paper review soon as well. I hope to release some videos in the near future too, although that may take awhile to reach the blog, as I still have a lot of inking videos to upload and share.

Wordcount: 2,270