Thursday, March 23, 2017

Guest Post: Kabocha and Comic Process-Linked: Intro to Comic Craft


Drawing a comic is a lot of work.  It’s a process involving a lot of repetition, learning, and frustration at times.

I’ve been working on webcomics for over 12 years now, having started when I was a wee little highschool student with access to a website of my own.  I’ve also got a fair amount of experience with webhosting and such, which I may write about later on down the line.

Currently, I am working on a comic called Linked, which I’ve been posting online for going on a year now.  I’ve been working on this story for quite a fair bit longer, though, having gone through several iterations of the characters and plot.

My process over the years has changed immensely.  When I first started drawing comics, I was working entirely in Photoshop 7.  I had no idea about resolution, page setup, or anything.  And thus, my final product looked something like… Well… This:

I didn’t even sketch before drawing pages! Man, was the eraser tool my BFF…

My process at that point in time was:  “Oh, hey, this is the next logical page isn’t it?”  I’d just draw, without any real thought as to what I was doing.  I’d just draw, throw on some low-resolution screentone (courtesy of Jen, who still has the :::Screentones::: site up), and put some text in there.

...

Fast forward about 12 years, and several changes of application and process later…
logos.png

Each of these programs has their own strengths, and your process will vary for each!

Nowadays, I’m working mostly in Clip Studio Paint.

When I start a chapter, I usually take some time to actually plot things out on paper with a few doodles of key scenes, and decide what I want to hint at for later down the road.  This usually works pretty well for me, although I do find myself sometimes needing to edit my own work.

I already have some preset settings for my page templates for single pages - I work at 300DPI, with a trimmed page size of 8.5 x 11.  I designed my page specs based on information several printers had online regarding bleeds and margins, as well as my own preferences.  While I don’t really intend to go to print, this is not a bad thing to keep in mind.

Here’s my page margins, bleeds, borders, etc. You’re welcome.


Once I have a new page set up, I then start on sketching things out based on my script.  I don’t presently do thumbnails, which could be a hinderance to me, but for the moment I’m getting along fairly well.  That could change down the line, of course.

Sketching is also the slowest part of my process, because it requires the most mental legwork for some reason.
The process may also involve several hours of thinking about “What the heck am I going to do,” interspersed with putzing around on Youtube, DeviantArt and drawing things that are decidedly not comics.

Often, I’ll work on by sketching out three or four pages at a shot, and then inking and toning through them one at a time.  These don’t necessarily correspond to an entire scene - it’s just faster for me and less pressure to get a few pages sketched and work through those.

Once I do get a page or three sketched, they usually end up looking something like what’s below.  My sketches are generally done in a bright blue, indigo, or purple, for no reason other than it’s easier to ink over for me. ...And when you draw on the wrong layer, it really becomes apparent.

Because I had JUST finished page 54, the text panel is the last thing I had open when I fired up Clip Studio, so don’t mind that.

Once I have my sketch loaded, I lower the opacity to somewhere around 20%, sometimes lower, and start using the Frame Border tool to create my panels.
Clip Studio’s Frame Border tool is actually quite unique in that it creates masked layer groups for each panel, which saves a little work for something I would have already done for lineart and some things. On the downside, my CSP files are a lot larger than my PSDs used to be because I tone in each panel, rather than doing it for the entire file at once.

Yes, there’s overlap.  This isn’t a big problem.  You can hide layer groups and such, and each group has its own background layer to them.

And now we get to working on a singular panel.  Zoom in, select the layer group, and start working!



Sometimes, as I ink, I change poses and such as I go.  ...I don’t recommend doing this too frequently, as this could lead to some incongruities.
After I ink, I move on to black fills and toning.  Usually black fills are done for hair, following this process I came up with (though I don’t always use tone).

When I lay out my text, I usually type first, then draw the text bubble to fit around the text.  ...I just omitted the text here for some reason.

But in any case, I’ve at least finished a panel… And now to repeat the process for the remainder of the page.

From page to page, I do sometimes need to make little visual cues to myself beyond sketching figures.


Usually, loose swirls, bubbles, and such indicate some form of magic in use - although it’s not necessarily clear to someone else reading my pages. These kinds of cues have become important for me to use, because they help remind myself what a panel should eventually look like.
When drawing these effects, the final implementation comes down to the tools I have on hand, but has so far largely remained consistent.
This is something I’ve done since… Well, almost the entire time I’ve worked on the comic:

Page 17 - I actually kinda like the sketch better, though

And after all that inking, futzing around, and hard work, we have a finished page.  I’d had a somewhat different version of it but ended up going back about two weeks after completion and revising it somewhat, based on some feedback I got from one of my beta readers.

The process isn't over just because I finished drawing the page, though! Linked is a webcomic, and so I need to prep it for web. This involves a couple of additional steps.


First and foremost:  Export that page as a flat image, such as a PNG.  Usually I export to the inside of the crop marks, at 150 DPI, as an illustration. I get a little more moire from my tones, but I kinda like the look. I also find that Clip Studio does some weird resizing of tones if you let it.

Once it’s been exported, I then load the page in Photoshop (though I could do this in GIMP or Paint.Net), and shrink it to 72 DPI.

I also take steps to compress it further using TinyPNG, as a small filesize does help considerably with load times (which can affect SEO), but… Well, that’s me.  Once you have your page at web resolution, you’re usually in pretty good shape!

If any of that interested you, I’m pretty easy to find on the internet.
You can find me posting art and other stuff on deviantArt and Tumblr as well!




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Art Workshop at the Nashville Public Library


This workshop, which is free to area teenagers, will be held at the main branch of the Nashville Public Library (615 Church St, Nashville, TN 37219 ) in the Teen Center.  Although supplies will be provided, you are encouraged to bring your sketchbook if you have it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Guest Post: Joichi and Creating the Story through Characters


Before I start; I will take a moment to introduce myself. My online name is 'Joichi' and I'm author and artist of Lavender Tea comic; a slice of life story about Jasper; sensitive teen boy learning about love, friendship and how to deal with his conflicting self identity.

banner_Tea Trio.jpg

With that done, let's begin the lessons! How do you create character-driven stories? Well, most people like to design characters and we sometimes think of their back stories. But the main issue is; how do you place them into a story plot?

Q: Who's character’s POV (point of view), where is it from?
The Story_core character.jpg
If this is your first story; the easiest is to focus on one core character. What are their conflicts, strengths and development? Are they simple or complex characters?  Is your main lead (protagonist) active lead or a passive lead?

Active: Does he or she drive the events forward?  Are they making self-conscious decisions

Passive: Are they letting other characters step in to make the choices? Have they always been like this, will they change through the story?

Important tip: Give your character a goal to strive for; these help push your lead to have a purpose. Include obstacles, conflicts along their way - what is preventing them from achieving it? If you are adventurous, throw a plot twist as well.  

There is no wrong or right way as either method works to develop your character’s growth whether they develop a bad habit or make independent choices. In turn, the side characters should contrast with your main lead.

Q: What if you had more characters that needs to tell their story?
The Story_ many characters.jpg


[This gets tricky] You'll still have your core main character but now the story has to divide its attention to the other sub 'lead characters'. A method which I've seen worked, 1) Characters that build your story's world 2) Other chars: the ones whose interactions intertwine with others. But this is up to personal storytelling, they don't have to work exactly in that order.

Try not to introduce too many characters in one chapter. Space their scenes out in various chapters, scenes.etc. There are other ways to bring in new characters.

Bad ex: 'Mr A, Miss B and Miss C all transferred to the same school. They arrived to see the main lead in action.' [Unless this story is a satire comedy, this may seem to ‘stick’ the cast as a whole rather than separate people.]

Good ex: Mr 'A' works at a shop next to the school, which the lead visits. As Miss 'B' transferred to their class, hearing this, Miss 'C' decides to ditch class.
[This starts to separate each character as individuals, B and C has a chain reaction.]

Note: As the author, if you feel that there isn't enough space to talk of your epic sub-lead characters; give a spin off story or a standalone chapter with their POV.  

Important tip: Character interaction and convey the story through visuals, rather than ‘spelling it out’ to the readers. This is covered by Mark Crilley’s Writing/Storytelling video. I recommend it, as he explains it really well.

Create a 'Plot Tree' for your storyCharacter plot tree.jpg
When I got the characters personalities finalized, I create a 'plot tree' diagram, where I separate the characters into groups. This can help organize your character's roles from the important ones to the support roles:
In literature, there are character driven arcs which are defined as:
‘The transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story,’ They begin and gradually transform into a new person, for better or for worse.

Character Growth:
Chihiro's growth_cannedcabbage.jpg
Art by Jean Wei
Chihiro from Spirited Away; she transforms from a sad, selfish child into a wiser and responsible young girl by the end of the film.

This is good to keep in mind if you want a story aim at teens or young adults. Write a couple conflicts that appeal to the human heart and mind. Everyone changes even within a year or 3 years. But your character will take a slice of flaws with them.

Study about characters whenever you watch an animated film, an anime show or a movie. These experiences come from creative writing and making observation from real life. As viewers, you are able to take the knowledge and apply them to your stories. Good luck with story writing. Keep creating stories because your next story might be even better than your first story.

Good luck!  - Joichi

My contacts

Twitter: @joichichan
Instagram: joichi.maki
Email

Sunday, March 19, 2017

31st Birthday

Hey guys!  Today is my 31st birthday, and I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit blue.  Throughout the year, its important to set goals, and so many of my goals require your involvement.  I know some of you have gotten involved with my Patreon, and that's fantastic- but analytics show there are A LOT of you, and I could really use your help! 



So help me celebrate my 31st birthday by helping me tick a few goals off my list.


Take a moment to request that your local library carry a copy of 7" Kara, Volume 1.  It has a Baker and Taylor number, as well as an ISBN, so with your request, this shouldn't be a problem.  I cannot request that libraries carry my books, but patrons can, and this would be a huge help in getting my comic out to the kids who need it!  Your library should have request forms on hand, and it only takes a moment of your time.  If your library does order a copy, please let me know on Twitter- that sort of news really brightens my day!



If you haven't checked it out yet, 7" Kara launched as a webcomic in February, so please give it a read.  Chapter 2 is well under way, and I've completed up to chapter 6, so there's steady updates for at least the next two years.  If you like what you see, subscribe to the RSS or the Tumblr, and please do share it with your friends, family, as well as any teachers or librarians who might be interested.  This is something only you can do for me, I cannot do this for myself.  If you dislike waiting on updates, you can always order a physical copy of Volume 1, which contains Chapters 1-4, from my shop.



If you have a Tumblr, please follow the 7" Kara tumblr- it only features pages from the comic and some additional art, and it is family and work safe.  My birthday goal was to hit 100 followers, and so far, I only have 65, so your support would be a huge help.



And if you enjoy my art, you can see it on a daily basis by following my Instagram.  I post works in progress, field tests, commissions, and lots more.

I'm in the middle of a big project that ends right as convention season begins, and I've run out of posts!  Efforts to solicit paid guest posts on Twitter have not been quite enough to fill the hole, so if you've ever wanted to write for this blog, please send me a pitch!  I use Patreon earnings to help pay for guest posts, so if you love this blog, and would like to see it continue, please join us on Patreon!  I've already spent my budget on guest posts, so any additional guest posts would be paid for out of my very shallow comic artist pocket.

I've gotten a bit burnt out trying to juggle so many things, so if you have a free moment, an email of encouragement would really mean a lot, and it would let me know that people do care about this blog, and all the tutorials and reviews that take so long to write.



If you haven't checked out the YouTube channel, please make it a point to do so- I'm sure there's something you will enjoy.  I have fountain pen videos, watercolor tutorials, inking tutorials, comic tutorials, and loads of marker tutorials, all organized into handy playlists.  If you watch 30 seconds of the included ads, I also see a few cents of ad revenue- and that can really add up!  That money is used to help pay my bills, keep the lights on, and keep me drawing, so if you enjoy my work, checking out my channel would help me a lot.  And if you like what you see, make sure you subscribe for more!  I just hit 3,000 subs, and would really like to hit 10,000 so companies will consider me for sponsorship opportunities.



Speaking of sponsorship, if you enjoy this blog, please take a moment to write to some of the companies in the Support Me section of the right hand sidebar.  Your good word means a lot, and they may be more likely to consider future partnership opportunities.  Right now, this blog has zero sponsors, and has never benefitted from sponsorship, which means I bear all costs.  Sponsorship would open this blog up to so many exciting opportunities such as reviews, tutorials, and collaborations.



If you know anyone looking to hire an illustrator, watercolorist, portrait artist, or comic artist, please send them my information!  I am always looking for paying work.  You can find links to everything pertinent in my Info section.  Or you can hire me for your own projects!  If interested, please email me- but only paying work please- I'm doing plenty of spec work already.



I know this may come across as a marketing ploy, but the YouTube, this blog, and 7" Kara are the things I care about most (besides loved ones), and seeing these ventures succeed would really mean a lot to me.  I am doing everything I can to ensure their success, but I could really use more support from you.  Please take the time to share this blog with your friends, family, or fellow enthusiasts not just today, but ANY time I write a post that you have found helpful or informative.  I really depend on your help and support in order to continue to producing all the work that I produce that's available free to the general public, and an engaged audience would help me get through the lean times.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Loose Watercolor Studies: Watercolor Basics

This series is also made possible thanks to the generosity and interest of my Patrons on Patreon.


My Watercolor Basics series is a longform, in depth tutorial series aimed at empowering others to pursue their artistic interests.  Due to the nature of these series, which require process posts, numerous examples, and in depth research, these posts are extremely resource intense.  It is only due to the support and loyalty of my Patrons that I can devote the time, resources, and knowledge to posts like this.  To my Patrons, I owe my sincere thanks- without you, there would be no Watercolor Basics or Intro to Comic Craft series.

For only $2 a month, you can join the Artnerd community and help support quality content like this.  Your pledge enables me to pay guest artists, purchase supplies for review, and offset some of the costs these in depth posts incur.  Your support inspires me to dedicate the time necessary to writing and creating art education content.

Loosening Up Your Brushstrokes


In several prior Watercolor Basics posts, we've talked about painting from reference.  In this post, I'm still painting using reference, but my intention is for a lighter, brighter overall image.  I'm aiming for graphic and appealing rather than learning or practicing specific watercolor skills/

These were completed in a 'watercolor' sketchbook from Hobby Lobby- the paper is akin to toilet paper, and can't handle water or washes very well.  I'm a stubborn woman though, and I decided I'd fill the whole dang thing with floral studies, and bend it to my will.

For these loose studies, I begin by finding photo reference.  For these, I tended towards bouquets with a variety of colors and flower shapes.  For the illustration,  I begin with a loose sketch in light pencil, then begin working in watercolor.  Once the watercolor has completely dried, I ink these with a waterproof, archival fineliner (the Micron 5 and the Micron 8).

The paper isn't capable of holding much water, takes a long time to dry, and won't permit reworking, so it presents a number of challenges that need to be worked around.  Working with intentionally difficult materials can provide you with the experience you need to solve problems you may encounter painting your pages.

These exercises were inspired by the work of Alisa Burke.











These studies were intended to help me loosen up my approach to watercolor, to approach studies with a fun mindset, and to try something new with brighter colors and graphic lineart.  Working outside of your comfort zone doesn't always result in pieces you're pleased with, but often you'll impress yourself with your versatility!

Enjoy my art?  These watercolor studies are available as a set of photo prints!

Speaking of watercolor, today's Watercolor Basic post was brought to you by the webcomic launch of 7" Kara, the comic that has inspired this series!  If you enjoy my watercolor art, illustration, or tutorials, please check 7" Kara out on Tumblr or on the 7" Kara site.


If you just can't stand a cliffhanger, Volume 1 of 7" Kara is available on Gumroad and through my web-shop.  Volume 1 contains the first four chapters of 7" Kara, and a bonus story, as well as loads of additional illustrations and a concept section!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Painting Brilliant Foliage: Watercolor Basics

This series is also made possible thanks to the generosity and interest of my Patrons on Patreon.


My Watercolor Basics series is a longform, in depth tutorial series aimed at empowering others to pursue their artistic interests.  Due to the nature of these series, which require process posts, numerous examples, and in depth research, these posts are extremely resource intense.  It is only due to the support and loyalty of my Patrons that I can devote the time, resources, and knowledge to posts like this.  To my Patrons, I owe my sincere thanks- without you, there would be no Watercolor Basics or Intro to Comic Craft series.

For only $2 a month, you can join the Artnerd community and help support quality content like this.  Your pledge enables me to pay guest artists, purchase supplies for review, and offset some of the costs these in depth posts incur.  Your support inspires me to dedicate the time necessary to writing and creating art education content.

Painting Foliage


Recently we discussed the importance of painting from reference.  In that post, I stated that a big part of learning when painting using reference is finding your own way and making your mistakes.  One mistake I regularly make when painting greenery or foliage is what I call 'muddy swamp'.  My values get lost, and the image looks like a muddy mess of greens and browns.  If you struggle with this issue too, I hope today's post will pull you out of that swamp.


For painting foliage (or bouquet garni, in my case), keep in mind that GENERALLY:

  • Lighter, brighter greens (yellow greens) appear close
  • Cooler darker greens (blue greens, blue) appear to recede


 For this study, I wanted to encourage loads of wet into wet blending, and I wanted to really push the green yellow (Winsor and Newton's green gold is great for this- it has a huge range) and the green blue (Winsor and Newton's Indigo in a half pan is a very green influenced blue that works great for this)


When painting foliage, even if you want went into wet blends, its important to allow layers to dry so you can get dramatic value shifts.  It's also important to mix your colors darker and cooler as you go along.

I recommend:

Start light and bright, work towards dark and cool



My palette for this bouquet garni is surprisingly limited:

Winsor and Newton Green Gold
Holbein Hooker's Green
Winsor and Newton Indigo

It was a struggle for me to keep my hand light, and my strokes loose, but I think it paid off quite well.



Strive to maintain contrast- for me, I think of this as visual bounce or bounciness.  I want my eye to bounce around the image- all values should not be the same.  Of course, I painted several failed foliage studies before hitting on the sweet spot, which I've shared below.


Overworked, not enough white, not enough contrast in value.


Overworked, not enough white, not enough light values.

Muddy, messy, mush.  Part of this is the paper- trying to use Strathmore's Visual Art Journal watercolor paper the way I would nice cotton rag papers like Artistico or Arches- there's a learning curve when you practice on nice and then paint on lower end.  These are excellent examples of why it's important to familiarize yourself with your paper, to know its limitations.

Even these failed studies served an important purpose- they were the stepping stones that helped me learn the techniques necessary for successfully painting foliage.

Examples in Illustration





So as you can see, the time I spent completing studies was well spent, as it allowed me to tackle personal projects with confidence.  Before completing a series of foliage studies, my greenery often turned into a muddy swamp, but working from reference gave me the knowledge I needed.

I hope this post has inspired you to tackle greenery, particularly if you set your comics or illustrations in the great ourdoors!


Speaking of watercolor, today's Watercolor Basic post was brought to you by the webcomic launch of 7" Kara, the comic that has inspired this series!  If you enjoy my watercolor art, illustration, or tutorials, please check 7" Kara out on Tumblr or on the 7" Kara site.


If you just can't stand a cliffhanger, Volume 1 of 7" Kara is available on Gumroad and through my web-shop.  Volume 1 contains the first four chapters of 7" Kara, and a bonus story, as well as loads of additional illustrations and a concept section!

Thanks for reading. Check out these products.