art, design, illustration, self-publishing, sequential art

Trials with Adobe CC

So, I’ve been tinkering with Adobe CC tonight and relearning Photoshop (PS). I also, from there, started tinkering with Illustrator (AI). What I can say is that I’m starting to be able to piece together what might be a workflow for a graphic novel — or, at least, the digital art and compositing part of it. (I would need to make the lineart first [keeping scale in mind], then either color it, or scan it in and digitally color it; then correct the image; then export that and work the paste-up piece by piece in Illustrator; then, I’m assuming, export that in some form into InDesign before printing.)

I’m also seriously considering working the art to fit on a larger page than 5″x7″ (like 8.5″x11″ or 7.5″x10″ after trimming), mostly because it would allow for better image display and larger fonts. Plus, a contact has referred me to a professional scanner and printer, so I don’t really have to worry about finished page size (at least, if I’m willing to forgo image bleeds [where the images run off the edge of the page]).

Of course, I do need to get back to work on the script, but recently I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ll do once I can get that at least decently completed. The script, the drawing, though: those are the fun parts. Going to efforts to relearn the software will make it, I hope, easier to do the compositing — or, at least, not uncomfortable.

The good news is that Photoshop is easy to remember for me, due to the fact that I actually trained on it — even if it was over a decade ago. Illustrator isn’t difficult, after I recalled the tools from PS; they use many similar icons. I had thought that I would be able to use the Pen Tool in Illustrator (or PS) to create color fills; however, the shapes I’m using are so complex that I wonder whether I’m just going to end up using my real inks and brushes (after first having scanned an archival .TIFF file of the artwork), then touching up with something like the Spot Healing brush; or coloring the whole thing using PS brushes, in a way that would appear similar to Charmy’s Army.

Hmm.

I know I’m leaning towards working the sketches over with ink in hard copy…but yes, I need to work on the script, first; then deal with character design, do some sample pages, and from there, settle on page dimensions (I’m still not sure whether to use standard U.S. comic dimensions — I don’t like them at all, but they’re industry-standard, here).

Then there is, again, the question of: if I’m putting all this work into it, is it not the case that I would want to take it to a professional Publishing House (to recoup my time and effort and investment of resources)? If so, why?

The major issue is that I’d lose a lot of control (for example, they may want to pair me with a professional artist — who likely wouldn’t understand the content like I would, or could introduce their own content [which, depending on their angle, could easily derail the message]), and it would also likely go into editing after being finished.

If I went the self-publishing route, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Hah — I just got the parallel between sosaku hanga (creative prints) as versus shin hanga (new prints) in 20th c. Japan. Sosaku hanga stressed the role of the artist in all stages of production, whereas shin hanga were produced by teams of artisans, having been designed by one person (I’m pretty sure?).

Ah — it’s late; I should get off of here and get some rest. I think I’ve answered most of my own questions, already…

art, comics, sequential art

Digital Revolution

Earlier, I began this post noting that I hadn’t done any work on the comic today, but that I had realized that it was possible (and most likely, the closest solution) to edit the black, white, and midtone points of the image I uploaded last night, in order to achieve more gradation between black and light grey.

I knew how to do this in Photoshop (PS), but not in GIMP 2. I tried the latter earlier today; it wasn’t wholly satisfactory. Unfortunately, Photoshop and probably most of the people who use it, have a love/hate relationship right now, due to Adobe’s pricing schedule. That, in turn, is likely because Adobe has made itself indispensable and industry-standard in the Graphic Arts.

Yeah, kind of like Apple.

The light grey from my original scan, in particular, did not show up to full effect, and I even got some washing out of an area which obviously (to my eye) isn’t white. I wasn’t sure if this was something that needed to be tinkered with, within the scan program, or not…

Scan as saved in GIMP 2 — I can’t recall if I messed with it or not. I think, “not.”

…but as my alternative was to either hardcore tinker with the scanner software (which I will likely still do); to save the file in an alternate file format like .TIFF or .PNG (not .JPG, which is getting on my nerves, at this point, as I think it’s the source of the grittiness of my attempted edits); to purchase an artist-quality flatbed scanner; or to use a commercial scanning service; I started thinking of alternatives.

That actually did get me to unearth my digital tablet. It also got me to rediscover Adobe, much as it pains me to say. Here is the edited version, which I also shifted to grayscale (the above is color):

The above image as edited in PS CC, with a focus on the range in the Holbein watercolor.

…which is closer to, if a little darker than, the original. I think it does look a bit different from within Photoshop than in my current browser (and especially from within the Edit window on WordPress, within the same browser — I know WP has, at least, used compressed image renditions in here, before)…but hey, I’m not being surgical with this, right now. I’ll see what it looks like, after it goes live…

What I had heard a long time ago is that scanners are more sensitive to differences in color than our eyes, so scanned artwork often shows a lot of flaws when it is rendered back into visual format. I’m not sure if that’s true; if it were, then this begs the question of why I can tell the many different shades of dark grey and light grey that my scanner couldn’t (and which Photoshop apparently still can’t — if the input is bad, I wouldn’t bet on improving it [or GIGO, as we would say in Digital Archives: Garbage In, Garbage Out]). This may in large part be due, however, to programmed-in biases which assume I’m scanning black-on-white text, not image.

So…I know the apparent solution to this. The apparent solution is to color the lineart digitally. Not that I want to…but my lineart looks freakin’ awesome in both Photoshop and Illustrator, even at relatively low resolution. Really, my biggest question is to what extent I can use or will need vector graphics in order to place color fills (or if I’ll be able to do something with a superficially similar effect, using my tablet). It’s not going to be great to have to re-learn how to use Adobe tools…but it will probably make my life easier, in the long run.

I still haven’t decided on whether to use the Ben-Day dots, yet (otherwise known as screentones or halftones). DELETER used to (and still does, actually) make a bunch of hard-copy black-on-clear screentones which were already sticky on the back: you stick them down, burnish them, then slice out what isn’t meant to be in the image, with a razor blade or X-Acto. They’re really fun to work with; unfortunately, for anyone doing anything of size, they’re also relatively expensive. What isn’t expensive (per-use, at least) is replicating the effect digitally; it’s just…complicated. At least, to learn.

And — yeah, I am glad I didn’t get rid of my digital drawing tablet, right now. It’s another peripheral to plug in, though, another bit of software to have loaded; which doesn’t make me comfortable. The more stuff I have on here, the more can go wrong. At least it’s not my ancient tablet (though that one did have tilt recognition; this one doesn’t), but I wanted to try out something small before committing to an expensive tablet that I might not use. (My old tablet has been physically biodegrading for a number of years, but that’s an aside.)

Right now, I have a very short-term commitment to Adobe. I won’t need all the programs I have access to: in particular, I can only see three that might be useful to me in this current project: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign (as a note to myself). That’s unless I went the route of webcomics — which could happen if I wanted to use color, or wanted to have a global distribution. Dreamweaver would help with that. Granted, I also hear Dreamweaver at least did insert a lot of extraneous code — but that was in 2007, before Adobe Creative Cloud (the current incarnation of all the above programs) even existed.

Of course, I know a bit of how HTML and CSS (and scripting) work, at this point; it’s possible I could edit that code to make it more streamlined. (I also have a huge book on PHP and JavaScript, that I got discouraged from reading. I blame my college introductory class on scripting. And having to do mathematical proofs in Honors Math.) It might be worth it to at least see what languages Dreamweaver can produce. Though — I don’t think I’d go live with this, anytime soon. (I ended up taking down my ePortfolio site, because playing around in the shallow end of the pool isn’t like swimming in the ocean. However…building something and not releasing it to the wild, immediately [until it’s ready] — that’s an interesting proposition.)

Anyhow…apparently, black-on-white lineart is still something I can do by hand (and enjoy doing by hand), though I still haven’t tried anything substantial with the dip pens — given that I only recently figured out how to prepare them en masse. (Prior, I was concerned about melting and bending the tips of my plier jaws with heat from open flame [it has happened]…which put me off of the dip nibs until I found my Third Hand again [it’s a weighted base with steel jaws and a magnifier — comes into heavy use when brazing or hard soldering], and then later, the potato method.) It will take me a bit of time to get back up to speed with Adobe…but then, those will also be salable job skills!

I also have a connection who may be able to help teach me how to do color fills…I came across her name and email, while sorting through old slips of paper. I think she’s connected to me on Social Media, too. Could be worth reaching out?

art, art media, comics, illustration

Ink and nib testing.

Well, I did it. I went out and got some more Illustration paper, this time with Non-Repro-Blue lines (also called Non-Photo Blue, as they aren’t — or, weren’t — supposed to show up in scans, though with modern scanners, who knows); and Canson Bristol (Vellum) — the latter of which is supposed to be better for the use of watercolors in illustration. I also used the raw potato method to successfully eat off the lacquer coating on the outside of the Tachikawa nibs I recently obtained (a sampler set of 5) — though I also have a mirror-like Nikko set of 5 to which I can compare them.

Apparently, you just stick the nib into the potato past the cutout portion and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Longer than 15, and the Internet states that the nibs will start to rust.

I gave them a quick rinse and dry, each, then got to work. I tested the following nibs in this session:

Copic Multiliners are very precise, with little line variation.
  • Brause Blue Pumpkin nib
  • Tachikawa:
    • Spoon nib
    • Japanese nib
    • G nib
    • School nib
    • Mapping nib (hard)

I then tested these nibs out by writing and drawing on Illustration paper, with four different inks:

  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Tachikawa Jet Black ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink

…though I quickly surmised that of the nibs I had, I could see the most use out of the Blue Pumpkin nib, the G nib (both of which have relatively high ink capacity and relatively heavy, easily expressive line) and the Mapping nib (which has a low ink capacity and is on par — almost — with my Copic Multiliner 0.05, which is one size above the tiniest they make [which is 0.03]). The major difference between the Mapping nib and the fine Multiliners is the fact that you get much less line variation with the Multiliners. There isn’t much variation in the Mapping nib, either — but it’s noticeably there, in comparison. The Mapping nib is also subtly thicker when pressure is applied, in order to get that effect.

Out of all of these, I feel that the Black Cat and the Bombay inks allow the most easily expressive lines (though Tachikawa ink is good as well, particularly for me, with the G nib), though after the first go-round with all 6 nibs, I did just start using the Pumpkin, G, and Mapping nibs. The Black Star Hi-Carb ink would be great…but it’s thick, and still rather glossy, even after drying.

It also dries very quickly, and is difficult to remove from nibs with water, paper towel and Q-Tip, and rubbing. (Yes, I know that I can accidentally work-harden spring steel [making it brittle] by rubbing it. I didn’t want to give these a dunk in pen cleaner, though.) I also cannot really think of a good way to clean stuck-on, dried ink out of the inside of the (hollow) Mapping nib, without using pen cleaner, or one of those cone-shaped brushes you use to get food and debris out from within tooth gaps. Which…now that I mention it, is a good idea.

Because of the difficult cleanup, and the fact that the Bombay performed just as well, if not better than the Hi-Carb, I’d lean away from the Black Star and towards the Bombay (which has also been easier to source, for me). The drawback to both is needing to dispense the ink through an (included) eyedropper, onto the nib.

The Tachikawa ink was just as black and bold in the G and Pumpkin nibs, but its bottle has a much larger mouth and lower ink level, which makes it easier to dip the pen in there without dirtying the nib holder. It also dries matte, not glossy. The drawback to the Tachikawa Jet Black ink is that it’s not easy to find, though it can be sourced online.

Again, the major drawback of the Blick Black Cat ink is its lack of viscosity; it runs off the nib quickly (and also dries very quickly), meaning you have to reload it more often than any of the rest of these — though it may be on par with the Bombay ink, here. The upshot of Black Cat is that it’s easy to find and it comes in potentially huge quantities (I think I have a quart, which I’ve dispensed into a tiny watertight screw-top jar to dip into [I had to buy this, separately]). I can also dilute it and use it for tonal washes over the top of dried ink lineart, which is a nice bonus.

There are some issues with unevenness of tone with the Black Cat in my last test, however, which could be due to a number of things: too much water in the brush; not having let the paper absorb water first (to paint wet-on-wet instead of wet-on-dry); using a cheap synthetic brush instead of a natural-fiber one or a “thirsty” synthetic that doesn’t dump out its color all at once (like the Princeton Neptune line — which I haven’t yet tried, though I will); or the unevenness could be considerably attributed to the paper quality (and absorbency) itself.

The good part of having tested these four inks above, however, is that I now know that they are all waterproof after a relatively short time (what felt like less than an hour). I went over my tests with clear water, and then various black wet media (all diluted to grey with water and painted wet-on-dry on Canson Fanboy Illustration paper, with an inexpensive flat synthetic brush):

  • Ecoline Black “liquid watercolor”
  • Yasutomo Sumi Ink
  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Holbein (HWC) Lamp Black watercolor (tube)
  • Winsor & Newton (W&N) Mars Black watercolor (tube)
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi fountain pen ink
Sample swatch with colors in the same order as listed above.
Drawing Ink: Black Star Hi-Carb. Nib: Brause Blue Pumpkin (Steno 361).

I’m going to have to do some more experimenting with these colorants, as I had significant issues with uneven water flow as the media dried. This was most pronounced with the Yasutomo Sumi ink, the Blick Black Cat, the Holbein Lamp Black, the W&N Mars Black.

This majorly leaves the Ecoline and the Pilot Take-Sumi (first and last color, above), which both lean relatively blue…and may be dyes, not pigments. I know that the Pilot ink should not be water-resistant. I’m not sure about the Ecoline, yet: I still have yet to go over a painted area with a wet brush to try to lift or dissolve the grey.

On top of this, the Ecoline and the Take-Sumi, are both pretty much transparent. As for whether they’re archival…I don’t know. That would take some long-term testing, to figure out.

As I look at this, the Ecoline (with my current screen settings) looks most true-to-life, without adjusting the color using an image editor. The Ecoline also promises a better way to get consistent coloration between print and digital, as it is dispensed drop by drop. Watercolors, on the other hand…are much harder to predict.

This scan missed a lot of subtleties in the original image, particularly dark but non-black tones, and light tones.

What I will say is that I eventually got my smoothest color laydown in this batch of trials with the Holbein Lamp Black, once I had gone through one pass with my paintbrush, then re-wet the bristles and painted back onto the paper. I’ve got to remember that. I’m not sure why it’s less textured than the W&N Mars Black, especially as Holbein watercolors are formulated to hold brushstrokes; I just know I got the flattest color dispersion, here. To me, that’s something I’m presently aiming for.

However: I had only tested the two watercolors (at the time of this post).

Increased visibility + increased texture with Dodge & Burn.

I am surprised that the light grey of the HWC wasn’t fully picked up by the scanner. Using the Dodge & Burn tool in GIMP 2 did make the grey a bit more visible, but also increased graininess in the image. I can only use it very sparingly without seeing a bunch of digital artifacts.

The other thing I can say is that all four of the inks which I made lines with, initially repelled pretty much all of the colorants I put on top of them. That’s likely due to the fact that they’re waterproof. However, the glows around the lines self-resolved prior to drying, for most samples; with the Black Cat and the Tachikawa Jet Black inks faring the worst in the long run.

Updates intended to come to the blog (not all in this post):

  • Painting wet-on-dry with various colorant media on Fanboy Illustration paper
  • Painting wet-on-wet with same
  • Testing water-resistance/liftability of different colorants on Illustration paper
  • Experimenting with “thirstier” and natural-hair brushes — is there an improvement?
  • Preparing and testing other nibs (Nikko, Speedball, any other Brause, etc.)
  • Testing archival qualities of all six colorants (should take a while)
  • Testing Canson Vellum Bristol Board
  • Testing Strathmore Bristol Board
  • Testing watercolor papers with pen & ink…

I’m not getting any kickbacks or compensation for doing any of this. It just interests me.

art, art media, illustration, self-publishing

I actually drew tonight…a lot…but no upload yet

What’s interesting is that almost as soon as I start developing material, and it starts looking good (and workable), I also start wondering if it is okay to show works-in-progress or developmental artifacts. The answer to that question may lie in whether I’m wishing to self-publish on a small scale, thus maintain total creative control over the venture; or to go to an established Publisher with the story.

As I doubt this story would be easy to sell to a publisher, however (its main audience is niche [gender and sexual minorities, particularly if they’re also People of Color, also particularly if they have experience within transgender circles…all of which will probably make this hard to sell — or a blockbuster]), that’s a step forward in freeing me up to display my work on it. If I did show my work on it and then later wanted to publish with a Publishing House, that could complicate contract negotiations.

If I showed my work, however, and then self-published…I could build up recognition prior to release. And possibly earn more using POD (Print On Demand) than I would earn with a Publisher. Plus, I’d keep my rights…which is kind of in line with writing the script and doing the art, myself.

So it isn’t…a wholly negative thing, to show the work. Especially not, if showing it helps me produce more of it (or if showing it lets people know I’m working on it, and they get interested). While I’m trying to forget the emphasis on images as proof of existence, I grew up with that. Unfortunately. :)

The major barrier here would be that if I self-published, it wouldn’t count if I wanted to use the book(s) as evidence to be admitted to a Creative Writing MFA program. But do I really need that? In any case, doing the work — any work at all, even if (or maybe especially if) self-guided — is probably better training than taking classes on doing the work, at this point. (I mean, seriously; I have one Master’s degree; unless I want to be an Academic Librarian, I can stop the formal education process, and get back to work!)

An MFA is, especially, a lot of money to invest, and I already did a BA in the subject. I might essentially be repeating classes, that is. Getting back in would majorly be to make Publishing contacts…which I could do another way (or probably other ways, in the plural).

The MFA in Creative Writing also doesn’t really matter unless I do go into Publishing or into Teaching, as versus Librarianship. In Publishing, I might not need it (with a BA in Creative Writing, and an MLIS, already). In Teaching? I have never tried Teaching.

Just a bit ago, I thought up the fact that I could try to lead free Creative Writing seminars within a Library position. The idea of helping people who love to read find their own voices (instead of just reading the words of others), is alluring. But I have no practical experience, and I don’t know if I’d enjoy the reality of it.

I’ve always been amazed at how some teachers can find positive bits to comment on, on the spot, after anyone from their class reads their writing aloud. I’m not sure I could do that; at the same time, I don’t want to crush someone who is proud of what they can do, just because I can see things to work on. (There are always things to work on, especially if what is written is just a first or second draft.)

Of course, there’s the Iowa Writer’s Workshop…but, it’s Iowa. (I have a hard time with cultural isolation. It was hard enough enduring Central California. And that was California.) I attended undergrad in San Francisco, and even there, the English program’s conservatism (as versus the Creative Writing program’s comparative brilliance) tried me. I don’t know what was up with the English Department, seriously. Whoever was hiring must have just had their own vision for what the place should be, which didn’t align with mine.

But I’ve experienced cultural isolation (if not institutional racism) in pretty much every higher-education scenario I’ve encountered, except for Junior College. The same thing — in Iowa, on top of it — doesn’t sound better.

This rumination does make it clearer, though: it’s likely more to my benefit to show my work, than not. Actually, it’s more to my benefit to do whatever I can to make sure I keep making more work, than not. If it takes showing my work to keep me engaged and accountable, that’s something to keep in mind.

The only issue is becoming public…like, really public. That, in turn…is going to mean dealing with people disagreeing with my existence and voice. But hey — it’s my existence. Others’ opinions on that pale in relative importance. And they should pale in power. To do otherwise means that their opinions and their existence are both more important than mine. And that’s a power grab.

In any case…I think I can move forward on this. It’s interesting to see my character’s faces again after so long, and to rediscover recurring characters which I didn’t know were going to hang around, when I first drew them.

So, tomorrow, I might be getting a couple of things…I’m just not sure if I should(!), or if I should try what I have first, before determining if I need anything more.

Right now I’m aiming for an initial run of images using dip pen and black ink, or black Copic fineliners, then going over that with either diluted black watercolor, or diluted black ink, to put in greys. There are three different black watercolors I can try: Mars, Ivory, and Lamp. They all have different colors, and different working properties, from each other. I’m thinking Ivory Black is the best one to use if I want to be able to lift the color…from what I recall it doing, before. (Lifting, that is, when I didn’t want it to.) Mars would probably be best if I don’t want the black pigment floating away.

Then, I also have Yasutomo’s (non-toxic) liquid Sumi ink, the Black Cat ink, and Iroshizuku’s Take-Sumi (which isn’t waterproof). Just thinking about it right now…I know that the Yasutomo Sumi and the Black Cat work well in dilution. I also know that the Yasutomo Sumi doesn’t move, even if I wet it again — which may be reason enough to use it.

Today I found that it was much less intimidating to draw in a sketchpad, than on Illustration paper…and I wanted to draw something with content, not just lines to test whether the ink is going to move. That means, tomorrow, I should test the Kuretake ink along with the Black Cat and the Black Star Hi-Carb (and I can try out those new dip nibs)…I’ll need a new lighter, though, to burn off the lacquer. That, or a non-food-safe pot to boil off the lacquer. Or a raw potato to stick the nibs into, to dissolve the lacquer. Which I might have.

It might be growing, right now. Hmm…

art, career, comics, creative writing, illustration

So scripts are easier to write than prose

…At least, so far. I have three solid pages of comic scripting to lean on in my drawing practice, and I’m very glad that I drafted out the core synopsis — though now I realize how limited it is. I’m wondering if working back and forth between image and text will help develop the story…my intuition says yes.

The major issue I’m having with the script is narration: lots of narration. (I’m very proficient at revealing story and character through monologue.) However, there are other ways to convey the same information. The thing about scripting, though, is that it’s minimalistic; so I didn’t have to craft a bunch of flowery prose for what is basically the next step up from an outline.

Working between image cues and words…I might be able to turn some words into images, or convey what the words convey, visually. What I’m getting at may not be really making a lot of sense right now, but please give me some leeway — it’s 1 AM here.

I’ve decided to keep some violence in this version, even though I’m not a fan of violence. Without it…the story feels like it’s a bit fluffy and seeking goodwill from the majority by downplaying the consequences of being different. With it, however, it’s solidly geared towards an adult audience, though I have at least two characters of complicated gender, now. That stuff didn’t really come into its own here, except within the last 20 years. (I do know, however, at least two seniors of complicated gender.)

I have actually finished reading the book I mentioned before, on getting published: this was The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman. There is a ton of information in this book, though I would say it probably is geared toward an English-speaking U.S. audience (and of that audience, particularly New Yorkers). I haven’t checked out all the leads in it personally, though (for one thing, there are too many to do so in such a short time), so I can’t be sure.

That book, however, led me to What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, & Business of Book Editing, edited by Peter Ginna, which looks like it will be pretty interesting. It is basically an anthology in which the writers are Editors, and gives a window into what being an Editor could be like (with the caveat that these roles are wildly varied). I’m not far into it, yet.

Now that I mention that…I think I’ll read some more before sleeping, and plan on doing some illustration work for tomorrow. Working intensively with text really makes me want to break out of it some way, and it could be the thing to spur me on to getting back to my artwork…

art, art media, comics, creativity, sequential art, writing

Getting back to where I was before

Not to reference a certain transphobic Beatles song, but I’ve decided recently to try and do what I want to do (within limits), rather than…abandoning my former line of practice.

Specifically: I’m planning on giving Illustration another shot, and picked up a number of dip pen nibs that I have never used before. They’re Japanese ([Nikko, Tachikawa] with a couple of Brause nibs [which I think are German]), so they will likely perform differently than my Speedball nibs (I believe Speedball is a U.S. company). I also found Tachikawa dip-pen ink for sale. All of this stuff, I can test out. It will be interesting.

I haven’t yet gotten back to working on my script or in my Creative Writing journal, though I can; likely, should. The tension between doing sequential art and doing literature had basically stopped me. Too many possibilities?

On top of that, there’s that whole thing where I get intimidated away from being creative, even though that’s really something I — at least think I do — well. But right now, I’m feeling the graphic novel thing again. I’m going to try and work on the script. EVEN IF that means I end up having to use transparent inks, a.k.a. “liquid watercolors”. They aren’t my favorite medium, but they’re guaranteed to be transparent (as versus FW Acrylic Inks — not to mention regular watercolors — which may not be entirely transparent, depending on the pigments used).

On that note, I should see how they perform on Bristol board or Mixed Media paper. I still haven’t broken into my Arches, but I did get a mechanical pencil which should enable me to erase my underdrawings, pretty well. I realized a short time ago that even though regular pencils had been on the outs with me, I did appreciate drawing with mechanical pencils, because of their erasability. Right now I am still working on a backstock of Pentel Hi-Polymer Lead, that I obtained in High School. It erases easily, but smudges. I guess I’ll just have to see if it also degrades over time.

The Tachikawa ink is also supposed to be good at not fading under erasers, and being waterproof. A while back I got an eraser sampler, but to date, have only used one of them. I’ll get to try out the rest, fairly soon.

As for reading…well, I found an interesting book at the library that talks about the Publishing Industry and what authors need to know to increase their chances of being published. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily include indy comix artists…I’ll have to start reading (and studying) comics, too. I’m not familiar enough with the field, or with page composition — especially, page composition using English language. (Manga, in their native languages, can have vertical or horizontal alignment of the words, which make the pages flow differently.)

And…yes, I do realize that comic authorship is going to be more of a challenge for me, than literature. But I think I can handle it. The main issue seems to be…what I’m motivated to do, rather than what’s easy; which is a familiar question. Overly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that this project is…such fantasy. And I can get lost in fantasy.

The fact is, though: I know myself much better now, than I used to.

There is also the fact that I don’t know how much I would like illustrating the conflicts in this story. There’s the Fine Art camp, where people are making things to bring beauty into the world; there’s the Literature camp, where people describe and work out conflicts in words. Conflict implies…well, disagreeableness. Literally.

But I guess in every project, there’s what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. It is possible to just refer back to what happened in the backstory, without actually illustrating it. That…doesn’t seem like the strongest approach, though.

Eh. I’ll have to think on it. I may be able to work it out, somehow, through writing and editing the script.

And, I guess, in the meantime…it wouldn’t hurt to try to draw, again!

“You say whaaat? You’re considering making a graphic novel and you haven’t been drawing?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

I want to draw, but I don’t see a reason to aim for traditional subjects (flowers and plants, excepted — and this is for a reason I know). This might, at least, get me drawing, again…

I should also mention that I filled one of my fountain pens with Take-sumi (black) ink…and it has got me questioning whether I’d appreciate Platinum Carbon Black ink, in a pen. However…I’ve got to think on it. It might be just as well, or better, to invest in some Copic Multiliner SPs (these are the refillable ones with interchangeable nibs)…

art, comics, craft, creative writing, drawing, illustration, sequential art

Needing to focus…

“Focus,” that is, on which projects I want to work on, now. There is the issue of where to put my resources so as not to overwhelm myself. It wasn’t long ago that I was looking at embroidery (I still am)…and then at quilting and sewing. A helper at a quilt store nearby introduced me to English Paper Piecing (EPP), which I’ve been browsing about, tonight.

If I did work with EPP…I would either be using a trapezoidal (EDIT: wait, no, just quadrilateral) pattern I made up myself (though I’ve seen something like it [along with a bunch of other stuff] called “Whirligig” [“Whirlygig?”] online), or hexagons with trapezoid borders. The latter might be…well…more systematic and predictable. I know a place where I can get whole hexagonal pattern pieces and then cut them up to make a modularly-edited quilt. (Is that a term?)

The Whirligig pattern that I’m thinking of, by the way — if I’m remembering it correctly — is made of an origami-paper square which is folded so one corner meets the midpoint of the side it’s folding towards. Unfold it, then turn the paper 1/4 turn and fold the other three sides in the same manner, turning it in the same direction each time. When you unfold it, you’ll have a cross in the center of the paper marking the midlines (which you can ignore), and four other lines which — if you cut across all of them — will give you the pattern I have.

If you, instead, fold the paper so that the parallel lines touch (it helps to mark the midpoint on one side before going to fold the other), you’ll get a Whirligig without a center square. If you then arrange these symmetrically, you should get a repeating, borderless hourglass motif.

Right now when I look at my quilt square that I did — likely years ago (time flies when you’re not a kid anymore) — there’s a cross going by the interior borders, and a square in the center. So when these pieces are placed as I placed them, you get a lozenge border contrasting with an hourglass border — I think (depending on color placement and where you focus; it’s easier to visualize with the little colored paper pieces here) — which are filled in with solid blocks.

Of course…it’s easier to envision when you have the pattern pieces in front of you. I don’t have the original pattern next to me right now. I had to go and get a paper to fold so that I could report accurately what I did. Something in me remembers, but it’s not the part of me that is good at writing. :)

But I’m curious as to whether I should do this project, now, just because it’s mine. I do have plastic sheeting to make templates (from the paper prototypes). I got it for this. I just left off of the project, I think, because of the whole demand for precision (flatness requires precision) and the question as to why I was hand-quilting it instead of machine-quilting it. (There are lots of straight lines.) I’d either have to mark or eyeball a lot of pieces…whereas if I were machine-piecing this, I’d have a built-in guide in the plate below the needle.

The helper at the quilt store encouraged me to make a pillow cover as a starter project. I can, seriously, do a pillow cover. I can do lots of friggen’ pillow covers. In different colors, for different moods. :)

I guess I can also make pillows.

So, then, there is also the issue of embroidery. I picked up some more stuff for it, thinking that I’d use a new book I’ve bought (Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches), which…I haven’t used, so far. I’ve been flipping through it, a lot. But this…from what I can see, it’s a serious embroidery book. So when I’ve just relatively recently taught myself how to do Feather Stitch (which required deciphering what each pierce of the needle and wrap of thread would do), it can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, I was able to find some more beginner-level stuff at the Library, one of which includes a pattern for a needle case. Which…I could use.

So we have that.

Otherwise, what am I working on? There’s the ‘zine thing, and the development for it. I’m probably still waiting to get back around to scanning, optimizing, and uploading my images of those tests with the black drawing inks, and the Ecoline “watercolors”. However…what I’ve learned is that bottled dip-pen drawing inks labeled “India Ink” are more likely to be waterproof. Just as a blanket statement. I am not entirely sure why; I just observed it as a pattern.

I’ve also really got to see whether I can use a dip pen on Marker paper (I’m thinking more along terms of Bienfang Graphics 360 Marker or Borden & Riley Layout [which is translucent], as versus Aqua Bee or Deleter paper [which is opaque; and that is if the Bee paper I’m speaking of is even still made]), or if I’ll need to use fineliners for the lineart, and markers otherwise. This matters because if the paper can take liquid media and dip pen, I can use everything I’ve got: ink and brush, pens, watercolor, etc. If it can’t, I’m limited to markers and fineliners (the latter of which I would also, actually, consider a type of marker).

The alternative is to work the art out entirely on a wet media paper: something like a smooth Bristol, or hot-press Watercolor paper, being my first thoughts, though “Mixed Media” paper might also be okay. I need to test it out. I should also remember that as long as the drawing is to scale, I can always digitally shrink it to fit (though the lines will also shrink).

A night or two ago, as well, I made a prototype model of the book binding I might be using. It kind of matters to know this, so I can size the images correctly as I make them. Right now I’m aiming for a 5″x7″ booklet, which opens up to 9.5″x7″. Since I don’t yet know how to bookbind with an awl and needle yet, it may (unfortunately) end up being stapled. But that assumes that I won’t learn the skill. (I do think I have cork board around here…)

There’s also the possibility of not worrying about the image alignment and sewing the volumes the normal way (Coptic binding?), which might be easier. Because of this, I’m going to want to print across all 5″ of each page (to give me leeway if I change my methods). It’s just that no critical data can go in the inner 1/4″, next to the spine. And the page order will take some rearranging, if I go the Coptic route. I can’t remember how many pages a “magazine” (a internal section) in Coptic binding is supposed to hold, but I can look it up. (Ah: 8, 16, or 32 pages.)

And then we also have…that script I’m working on, which is somewhat fun, even if somewhat disturbing. When I get into a flow state, though, it’s really easy. Editing the script and composing the images, will be different.

I kind of think that’s enough on my plate, for now.

art, Business, career, comics, creative writing, self care, work

I have more, and different, things to give than this.

I did finally take the leap today and started writing out a script for the story that has been gnawing at me since my young adulthood. Although it took a while to ripen (I had to get sufficient life experience to be able to write, contextualize, and understand the story)…the current story is, well, interesting. Though I probably overuse that term.

I can skip around in the story’s timeline, to tell it more quickly. At this rate, I’m not sure what I’ll have left to clarify, before long; then, I can work on fleshing it out if it needs it. (I was taught not to include extraneous details, a form of minimalism which I didn’t understand for a long time. I used it to good effect in my plot summary, though.) However, as I’ve said, this is a finite story with an ending. I’m not going to run a series on until it stops selling — sales aren’t the point. Experience; practice; and getting it out of my head, onto paper, and shared; are.

I’ve also found the difference in definition between, “comics,” and, “comix.” I’d be in good company if I really…utilized my creative freedom in a ‘zine format.

I’ve started to remember that I do have a personal life, ambitions, and goals, outside of my employment…which I need to hold onto. I’m not worthless without my job. I’ve just had so much anxiety recently, though — largely from taking work issues home with me, the stress of being on-call, and learning to drive — that I’ve needed to step back.

If this doesn’t work out…the job search will start again, and I will likely want to find a job in between the end of the last and the beginning of the next library stint. However…well, I know that the job I’m thinking of may be highly difficult for me, as it’s customer-service oriented. Because customer service is what I’m struggling with right now (that is, emotional labor coming from being seen and related to and expected to be and react as a “girl”), it might not be a good fit (unless I want to take a low-paying job where I can practice those skills, which will apply in any public-facing job in a Library. Of course…I’d prefer a job which was not public-facing. At least I feel that way, now).

The major difference between working for a private company and working as a Public Servant, is that in a private company, I can say, “no, I’m not going to serve you.” That’s harder when you work as a public employee, and have to tolerate some level of inappropriateness.

The upshot of said Clerk job is that I’ll make new connections, and be around artists and art materials — something I desire. Of course…my own background is more eclectic than not. I’m not an artist who has been able to devote a life to art…wait, unless you consider writing an art. Literary Arts, I guess I have been involved in for quite a while. I got a Bachelor’s in that stuff (though that wasn’t the name of my degree). Also, an Associate’s in Art; so…hmm.

What I meant is that I haven’t had the money or inclination to go to “Art School”. I mean, I’ve wanted to. Particularly recently (within the last decade), I did find at least one place giving an MFA in Comics. I have just known that dropping money on an Art degree like it’s nothing, hasn’t been a financially sound decision. But then, majoring in Creative Writing also wasn’t a good financial decision. I just didn’t know that when I got into it.

But hey. I have two AAs, a BA, and a MLIS…which isn’t a bad track record. It should prove to people that I can get through College and University, at least; and also that I can learn, and that I know how to learn. I can also work with technology. Even as much as I don’t want to, sometimes, it’s nice to be able to fix things (and understand what I can of how things work). It’s just that getting to the point of capability with that requires blood, sweat, and tears; and to be honest, I have only scratched the surface of dealing with this. I just haven’t wanted to look forward to a lifetime of learning new technologies in order to remain viable.

So getting back into Scriptwriting and Arts and Crafts…has really been good for me, in that I know that I don’t have to fall back on my Library work for the rest of my life. I was actually talking with another person about this recently (she volunteered the sentiment — possibly because she saw that I was entertaining the thought of eventually taking on the ongoing operation of a library Art display. It would be a Volunteer position, but that could still hold me over if I had to switch jobs and then re-enter the job market with little or no paid work). I think the other Substitutes know how hard it is to be in my position. It is a small comfort.

I also have the skill of journaling — I was able to get five pages of writing out today as to what was going on with work, and why I was feeling the way I was (to put it succinctly, I was upset very recently). That way, it’s recorded, and I don’t have to think about it anymore.

It’s nice to be able to do that with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Writing has been a very useful skill for me, over the years. Even when it has shown me things I would rather not see.

Regardless, though: it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get on top of new job openings; and I know I can be more than a retail Clerk. Kind of like I might be able to do more than become a Public Librarian (though the pay scales and levels of appreciation probably can’t even be compared). The MLIS introduced me to a lot of skills which I don’t necessarily have to use here. It might be useful to look back through the classes I did take, and their applicability within or outside the Library world.

It also might be useful to get back into a Business program. But I’ll get to that if and when I come to it. It could be useful if I wanted to help a Small Business, like a bead or fabric store. Though at this point, they may eventually want to put me into Management. Right now, I wouldn’t turn it down; I have enough experience working lower-level jobs and seeing both good and not-great Management in action that, if the pay is right, I might be moved to do it. Before I left my last job (of 9 years) as an Aide, I did realize that I could become a Circulation Manager — if I wanted to be one — because I knew about optimal workflow (and about who wasn’t doing their job). But being in that position isn’t easy — the difficult cases get referred to you.

But again…that’s only if things come to that. In the meantime, I should try and, well, feel better, and not assume that this job is the only job I’ll ever get, or that it’s the end of the world if I lose it. That’s not a great bargaining position.

And I’m more than that. I have more to give, than that.

art, comics, creative writing, illustration, self care, self-publishing, sequential art

‘Zine dreams

Well…let’s see. We’re still rearranging the house. Bright spot: I may now have an area (extra desk, cart, and space) I can use for sewing. Somewhat-uncomfortable spot: I think a lizard may have gotten in. Not that they’re terrible or anything, but all they do is die…

I’m not sure that’s the best way to start a post, but you know. Best not to forget about the lizard. Last I saw it, it may have run behind the TV–!!

Right now…I do just kind of wonder whether I had a surplus of free time for so long that I’ve just been able to develop a number of different skills. I am thinking that if I were working on a different timetable…if I had to support myself, that is, I wouldn’t have had time to begin these practices, at all.

A number of days back, I realized that I could combine embroidery, applique, and piecework in order to make original artworks…this, though, has led to me finding my sewing stuff, my fabrics, and projects which I’ve intended to work on, but haven’t had the motivation (or memory) to do so.

I’ve also found a bunch of…old, completed or mostly-completed sketchbooks. In a couple of them, I was getting into things heavily enough that I had started to work out situations which stories could take place within…or actual stories. And characters. And drama. And page layouts. Seriously. How much more exciting is it when I’m not hesitant to make my characters feel?

On top of that, I have a lot of pencil character sketches which I could translate to marker paper. I know that working these out in black-and-white should be easy. I also know how Copics work, now, and a bit about their color ranges. There’s also the thing about working these out on heavier paper, or on Deleter paper. I have a fairly decent amount of the latter…but I still don’t yet know its properties (stability under water or light washes; how it takes alcohol marker, or dip pens; I think I remember using it before with Microns, but not Copic Multiliners, which I found out about later).

In short, going through my old art stuff reminded me of old and unfinished projects. Last night, I realized a method of binding that I could use to make comic pages with full bleeds (images running off the edge of the page), without needing to align printing on both the back and front of the paper. (Fold the paper at the center, bind the loose ends. One image, two pages.) That, then…that opens up a world of possibilities.

I also thought of writing and illustrating the thing for a small circle of friends here, and in ‘zine format, distributing it within small independent bookstores and ‘zine fests. From there, it can grow, or not. But it will have reached people I’ve most wanted it to reach.

I’ll also, then, have a portfolio piece. And I’ll be able to get this story out of my head.

Last night — after drinking an iced oolong in the middle of the night — I realized that I needed to get the core of the story down, and then build the rest of the story around it to support it. Then I realized that I did know the core of the story…which I eventually decided to take a moment to scribble down. One page. So much.

So today, I have the essential core of the story (plus some extraneous things). It is very…LGBT+ themed. I’ve learned over the years that it isn’t worth it to try and alter this story away from what it is (or what it has become, at least). I wonder if this generativity has come, also, from getting tired of writing the same things over and over in my journals.

The major thing is…graphic novel format feels more “alive” to me, somehow, than just text. At least so, when I make an effort to show emotion through my characters…and there are a lot of ways to do that. But I wonder if it’s worth it to try and illustrate the story as versus writing it out, first. Generally, so far as I know, at least; scripts come before illustrations. However, that isn’t always the case.

Doing the writing and art separately implies a division of labor between writer(s), who may not be able to draw — and illustrator(s), who may not write as well as they compose and create visual art. However, if they’re both the same person…that’s different. Jeff Smith, who wrote and drew the original Bone comics, was like this, though he started off with a blank page with a set number of panels, and basically drew the story as he imagined it.

Of course, he also started his own publishing house to get his work out there–!

Not to say I’d work exactly as he did — I don’t imagine that. However, the only person who needs to understand my process, is me. That means I don’t have to artificially separate generative tasks in the way I would if I were not currently aspiring to be an indy comic artist.

I do think that somehow, getting back into…this kind of gentle non-figurative stuff with letting myself be okay with just doing sewing, or embroidery, or abstract watercolor (and disregarding for now the possibly salient concept that all of these tasks have been accorded to women in the past) — it has also stimulated other parts of my mind.

Like the discursive part that doesn’t care if, say, when we’re talking about ghosts: what ghosts are, in reality; and whether I’m being accurate to reality, and whether life after death exists, and what paradigm to write from when writing about life after death, etc. That’s why fiction is here.

I also had to be okay with shifting away from my prior goals, to new ones. Yes, I know that I hadn’t planned on this, but I also know I can’t over-plan my life. Sometimes I just have to look at what I have the ability to do, with the resources I already have. I am looking at what I’ve already sunk resources into, and what I already know.

Sometimes…like with Japanese language, I’ve sunk monetary resources into it, but I haven’t used the materials much (at least, recently). On the other hand, with something like Spanish language, I’ve sunk (at least five) years of study and practice into it…to the point that I can understand some basic spoken or written Spanish, without help (like someone asking a clerk today how much an item cost). Because of this, the barrier to entry is much lower than with Japanese, which I spent at most one classroom year of time, studying and practicing.

I’ve also sunk time into Art training, including at least three semesters of Figure Drawing. It’s to the point that I’ve begun to envision at least skulls in three dimensions…and I find myself struggling with the idea of letting form slide for the sake of cartooning (although of course I can make cartoony versions of my characters’ images). The major difficulty I find right now with the concept of illustrating a ‘zine is the fact that there is so much drawing involved. (Do I know if I like drawing that much?) But my writing and vision may make up for present deficits in my skill level…which will rise as I practice, if I practice.

There’s also the fact that this story as it stands is finite. I know the ending already (I also noted it last night). That makes it easier to envision tackling.

Then there is stuff just to do for relaxation. I can’t focus on my career 24/7. It stresses me out too much, and makes me dread going in to work. I’m thinking of setting aside a set number of hours every week (3 to 6) for Professional Development activities, and not worrying about my progress, outside of those. Pretty much every time I go in to work, I’m gaining practical experience and getting closer to becoming a Librarian. That’s really what I need to be doing.

Reading materials on Chat Reference work or Library Programming will get me closer to that, as well, but they’re not things I really need to know now. Probably the thing that I most need to do out of all of it is to read up on Reader’s Advisory (though that only really impacts me at one branch), and reading up on how to handle difficult situations, like dealing with people who are hostile or inebriated, or people experiencing severe mental illness.

And yes — the driving lessons have started. My fear and tension is probably my biggest problem, and that should reduce drastically as I get more comfortable behind the wheel. Kind of like work, now that I think of it…

art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.