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, 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, 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 media, comics, creative writing, creativity, sequential art, tatting

Stories and creativity

Sorry for being offline for a bit (about a week, for this blog). There’s been some stuff going on…though I don’t trust myself to remember a week’s worth of history, all right now. The good news is that I did complete my Dewey course, fine. Of course, though…the new course also just started, and I’m not particularly in the mood to study, right now. It is the third course of four that I have planned, and should help me if I need to do original cataloging of items in a College or University library (I’m interested in working at a Community College library as an introduction to Academic Libraries).

The other day, a work friend and I were talking about beadwork, particularly bead embroidery and loomwork. I have kind of gotten excited about the prospect of sharing bead-related joys with a friend. I would like to take some beads in to show this person…the thing is that I’m dealing with a number of impulses for media in which to create. I have tatting — which is new to me; beadwork; embroidery; sewing; and markers.

Ah! That’s right! I bought a set of alcohol markers recently. They’re basically artist-quality, though I went through the set and divided the cost into the amount. They’re Blick brand, and work relatively well. They did cost $44 for the set, but there are 24 markers in the set, meaning that each marker is $1.83 — a very good cost for the quality of these, at least if the tips of the brush tips don’t end up breaking off. (Generally, one can buy artist and illustration markers for between $3 and $5 each, open-stock).

The major thing with these is that I need to erase graphite underdrawings before going over them with markers. Otherwise, the graphite smudges. I was using marker paper for my trials, though, which means that the graphite had very little to cling to. Also, it helps when your fineliner has time to dry before you overlay it with marker!

I have a premise for a graphic novel series, though I’m still not sure of the primary conflict and range I should undertake for it. There are a few different stories I have in me: one is about mental illness, one is about intra-family racism, and one is about gender variance.

So…that’s a lot. I don’t think I’ll be able to pack it all into one story. I also don’t think I particularly should try to pack it all into one story, though I could link them all by putting them in the same universe (and have series crossovers or spinoffs). Right now, the story I have foremost on my mind is the one about experiencing mental illness, being unable to distinguish “fantasy” from “reality,” learning how to function, and the sacrifices that come with functionality.

The biggest problem I can see here is people asking how I know what I do; but that’s not really their business. There’s also the issue of what happens if I start to have an impact. I have not seen many books focusing on the inner experience of mental illness, at this point, but then again — after I graduated with my BA, I basically stopped reading fiction.

Ah, I also really want to get back to learning Japanese language. I have been exposed to animations and comics coming out of Japan (the challenge of reading them made them more interesting); also, selected comics like Deadpool or Trinity (though the latter was nonfiction, about the invention of the nuclear bomb).

Anyhow, I think I feel okay with getting back to my study, now. I’m feeling a lot better about it.

calligraphy, drawing, sequential art

crochet and playing with brushes

So I suppose it’s the time of year when I start thinking about what I’ll make or buy for people for Christmas.

I wanted to note that the crochet scarf pattern that I’ve named “dark waves” over on another website, could be good for someone’s Christmas present.  I don’t know if I would actually be able to finish it before Christmas, though — at least, working with a fine gauge, I’m unsure.  Basically I was thinking that I’d be able to work on this and it didn’t matter if I liked dark purple anymore or not, because it would be going to someone else.  ;)

Anyhow.  Also to update on the playing around with watercolors, ink and brushes:

I’ve “recently” (as in within the past two or three months…I think) obtained a set of watercolor brushes that I’m really happy with.  I’m using the Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes, primarily.  These have been mixed with some other brands; though I can’t recall the specific brands offhand, besides Princeton Art & Brush…which works differently because the bristles are of a different degree of stiffness than the Cotmans.

I basically have a bunch of small round brushes and a small flat…the Cotmans I like, because they come to a reasonably fine point, at least in my judgment, and the larger sizes have bristles long enough to contain a good ink load.  (Only complaint I have is that the bristles on my smallest — an older brush — have splayed a little, causing random additional lines; and the bristles aren’t very long.)

Last time I was experimenting with them, I was using a jar which contained some Yasutomo Sumi ink (I know, pre-ground ink is not the best way to go about things, but it’s available).  The jar…last time I used it, it had a skin of dried ink that fell into the bottom that I had to pull out so it wouldn’t gunk up my brush.  I need to remember to clean the jar out.

I have a couple of pads of Bristol now to work with — I’m using the 300 series until I want to do something serious, then I can use the 400.

I’ve eased off of attempting the Japanese calligraphy, once I saw that I had a difficult enough time writing basic phonemes in ballpoint so that they look right…

…yeeeah.  The Japanese study hasn’t been coming along well, because I keep forgetting about it.  Reading books on Japanese calligraphy and Chinese brush painting, however, has been good to show different ways to *hold* and *use* a brush.  The grip one uses on a brush drastically changes the quality of mark one can obtain from it.

But yes; I did find that the entire Oriental calligraphy thing would require a different set-up than I have; and in that field, I’m working uphill because of my limited knowledge of how to write in the language anyway.  But the information of learning different ways to *use* what you have (and as I’ve read, Chinese brush painting, at least, draws off of calligraphic strokes in order to create an image) — that’s actually really valuable, even if you’re illiterate in all Asian languages.  :)

As for what I’m doing artistically, otherwise: most recently I did a series of sketches while trying to get to sleep.  Don’t know if that counts.  ^_-  But I did find that the Staedtler fiber-tipped pen I was using (.3) can create a variety of line widths, depending just on how hard it’s pressed, and how slowly or quickly one moves it.  I should try that with the Microns and see how it works…

The art get-together I’ve been trying to plan with a friend just isn’t happening.  Not entirely sure why, other than that maybe they just aren’t into it anymore.  Or I intimidate them or something.  I don’t know.

As regards ink and quality of ink — I have now tried Higgins Eternal, and I prefer Higgins Calligraphy.  Eternal is not a very dark black, it’s more of a very dark bluish grey — which probably doesn’t matter if you’re making work for graphic reproduction, as the blacks can be digitally darkened.

The Higgins Calligraphy ink is the black that I personally prefer — in pens, the closest thing I can find to it happen to be the Pitt fiber-tipped and brush pens.  I haven’t tried Copic or many of the other fineliners, though, so that should be taken with a grain of salt.

creative writing, graphic design, illustration, sequential art

underlying components of good character design vs. good writing

This is just a note to myself as regards the graphic novel issue.

I’m not entirely certain how deeply I should get into this, but I happened to check out a copy of X-Men:  Eternals a while ago.  Attempting to read this made it clear to me why the X-Men movie series was so heavy-handed and apparently one-sided.

I don’t have a great amount of literacy in graphic novels — I can recall reading Bone and Blade of the Immortal; and Generation X before the franchise-wide reboot of the X-Men series (which really ticked me off), plus a couple of more mainstream Japanese things like Fushigi Yugi (which I didn’t particularly enjoy, much as I didn’t enjoy Tenchi Muyo! [though I only saw the latter in anime]) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I got into because of the anime).

Then there are the series which I picked up even though I was at the time fairly illiterate in Japanese, like Inu Yasha and Bastard!, along with Yuu Yuu Hakusho (the flame-like banter in which I was not entirely aware of, until I happened to read some of it in English translation), and which I incidentally only got into because of the doujinshi (and because I was at the time learning to read Japanese).

What I’m thinking is that the same traits which can make a person a great character designer can also cripple them when it comes to good writing.  I’m not saying this is true across the board — it’s just something which has come up in specific regard to my own trials with trying to script establishing scenes in “graphic novel” formats, and I see it reflected in what I read going on with X-Men:  Eternals.

If you’re designing a character so that all elements of the character attempt to describe that character in a visual manner, that is fine.  But reality doesn’t work that way.  In reality, the way people look does not always (I would say often does not) relate to who they are.  This may not be quite as easy to see when the makeup of society is more or less homogeneous.

But when you have multiple minority categories in a society, and these minorities have strength in numbers and voices in regard to their own portrayal, it makes it clear that the thoughts which come to someone’s mind because of the way people look is not equivalent to who those people actually are.  This is especially clear if you happen to be one of those minorities and you happen to see how people constantly misread you (in addition to misreading your family).

This is a way in which my own philosophy diverges from what I’ve seen…whether we are looking at older American comics or whether we are looking at the less-complex graphic novel material coming out of Japan.  What people look like is not equivalent to who they are.  Of course there are materials coming out of Japan which acknowledge this (for example, in Legend of Zelda:  The Windwaker, in which the fairy who accompanies you acts like someone who would ordinarily be drawn as a big, tough male character who had the burliness to back up his language — but this is used to [actually, quite delightful] comic effect).

What I’m trying to get across is that in a good piece of writing, it’s very often the case that characters are not one-sided.  Characters are complex and have many different layers.  They’re often not surface-readable — you don’t immediately know what their role is just because you can see what they look like.  In graphic design, and I believe likely in character design, the goal is the opposite:  to be able to look at an image and glean a more or less solid idea of the intended communication fairly immediately, just from the visual elements of the composition.

I am not certain how to reconcile these two perspectives, but I wanted to make a note of the conflict.

drawing, illustration, sequential art, writing

minor update — overall, trying to work out how to express creativity

The initial reason I wanted to post here was to remind myself that the Pantone markers don’t smudge the Staedtler Duo brush marker I’d been using.  I didn’t try marking with a very light Pantone on top of a black Duo — not yet.  Major reason is that I don’t want to ruin my lightest Pantone.  But the Pantones are alcohol-based.  The Duos are water-based.  So it doesn’t seem to especially matter whether I ink first and then color, or color and then ink, as the solvents are different.  But I still have to really test that out fully.  I did also try using a (waterproof) Pitt brush marker for inking, and it isn’t as effective when it comes to variation in line width — or maybe I’m just too heavy-handed with it.

I did produce another image of a character I came up with a while ago; I was in the headspace of thinking about Sanatana Dharma while producing her image.  I have a working name for her now, though I probably shouldn’t share it, in case I start using it in anything that eventually goes public.  Before I get into anything else, I should say that I’ve had to hold the brush pens vertically to ink hair and to use the Duo for outlines.

I’m wondering how to balance out my creativity…to what extent I express what is going on in my mind — to what extent I draw and to what extent I write.  If I keep the story in my mind or if I draw it out or write it down.

I did find a copy of The Artist’s Way which I started looking over, though that is more of a course in reviving one’s creativity.  Apparently I got to the second section and stopped.

The other things I’ve been doing — I’ve designed an image for use as a stamp, and tried cutting it out of something which feels like a gum eraser.  I think it’s actually too soft to make a good stamp, as its surface rubs away too easily.  I can try with a larger image and my carving set from high school on something more like linoleum.

Then there was the drawing with the colored brush pens that I did while playing around on the phone, which more vividly resembles Graphic Design work.  But I’ve really got to go now — I can continue this later.

drawing, fine arts, painting, sequential art

amateur painting thoughts

Haven’t been working on the sewing so much, recently.  Too many pressures on my time and too many options, I think.

I did pick up a coloring book to work in — or at least to xerox the blank pages out of so that I can color on them.   :)  Given my fine motor skills, I could probably also reproduce them by hand with a compass and a pencil, eraser and pen.  I got this because I’ve been inspired to get back into 2-D art again, and it seems like a good start.  Right now I have a lot of colored pencils and drawing pencils, and almost a full spectrum of brush pens (I’m still lacking a [warm] yellow).  I just need to figure out a way to use them.

I also came into contact with a graphic novel recently, which has got me thinking on doing watercolor work again.  The thing is that, for one thing, it’s been so long since I’ve worked with (transparent) pan or tube watercolors that I’m not entirely confident that I still even *know* how  to use them.  I got a cheap pan set for about $6 (Aurora; the pans look unfortunately like Pez) to play around and experiment with as I get my legs back.  But I still haven’t used it.  I should also note here so I don’t forget:  I also have a small new jar of Process White for illustrations, and there are some older tube watercolors and a lot of my old gouaches here, plus the semi-moist Prang stuff from when I was a kid (which is, at least, free).  The gouache is likely to be more viable than the watercolor, but at least there’s the possibility of the option there.

Hmm.  So maybe for now I should put the sewing away, just so it doesn’t get dusty while I’m not working on it?  I need to wind a new bobbin, too.  The next step in the trial blouse is gathering up the sleeve caps, which is kind of intimidating.  But, tangent.

The hardest part of this for me at this point in my life is trying to figure out what to paint or draw.  I’m not a type of person who really wants to paint landscapes.  Still-lifes are all right, kind of boring, but good for practice.  I still haven’t found a place to settle as regards…well, my own style.  My illustration style is getting more settled, but to be realistic with that, I’ve been working on illustration-style drawing for well over a decade…  What I want to do is to be able to draw scenes out of my mind and draw or paint them; or to communicate an internal state visually (which can be totally non-objective painting).  If gouache didn’t lift so easily, it might be the perfect medium for this.  But as it is, unless I use some type of medium to alter the paint/water mixture (so it turns into “glaze”, I take it, though I’m not too familiar with this), it’s going to take more visual pre-planning than I’ve ever done before, just because you can’t paint lots of layers of gouache on top of each other without pulling up the underlayers.  And, of course, regular watercolors are transparent, so things like washes show through unless an opaque ground is painted on before the object in question.

Maybe I should be looking into acrylics instead of watercolors, eh?  The only problem with that is that…well, in the past I thought that you couldn’t paint on watercolor paper with acrylic, but now I’ve read you can?  I could try light work as with watercolor, but let the paint dry to a film and then work over it.  :)  Which actually sounds good…but I’d have to think about that.  I’m not too sure if I’d have to gesso watercolor paper, or not.

I could use the acrylic, to be short, like watercolor, but with the advantage of being able to work over an area very many times.  And I suppose I could just use the disposable palette.  In a tactile manner it seems as though it would be very different, using acrylic/oil brushes instead of the soft watercolor ones I’m used to.  And working on a textured base like canvas (as I could), instead of paper.  Hmm.  Or I could work on hardboard or canvas board…which is really not an option with watercolor, is it?

I never really got used to the idea of painting from light to dark, which is my major problem.  And I’m more spontaneous and fluid with my envisioning of my paintings or drawings, as versus having the thing planned out before I begin.  I know that after practice, I can get into the zone where I can see what I want to paint or draw before I make a mark; but that’s generally for localized areas.  And then sometimes things change as I’m drawing, or I can see that something’s not right, and I alter it; which then flows into a running narrative, which is a large part of why I’ve been interested in sequential art.

I almost named this entry so that it would have something to do with thoughts on color, but I suppose that is almost assumed when one is working with paint, isn’t it?

I should get some rest…my back is tensing.