it’s never a dull moment here in the university district

9:55 AM. I’m getting dressed. I drift to the front door of my apartment and step outside, to see how well my clothes will fare in this morning’s weather.

As I open the door, I hear a young male voice across the street. “Sprint to the Pantry!” he hollers, his voice choked with laughter. And then I see a guy run straight into the fence of the house across the street, breaking right through its brown wooden slats and falling onto the lawn. The half-dozen guys with him all run off to the south, abandoning him. Presumably they’re going down the street to the nearby convenience store named Plaid Pantry.

Fence-breaker guy slowly gets up, and starts rooting around trying to pick up the pieces instead of running to catch up with his friends. I can only assume he broke the fence of the place he lives in.

We Love Your Art!

So a while back I got mail from this company that puts on art/fashion/music/whatever shows. They wanted my art in their show!

I replied noting that I work digitally, currently have pretty much nothing printed, and am not interested in putting in the time and effort to remedy this; if they could deal with making that happen we might have something to talk about. Oh, and what kind of price range is moving at their events, and about what percentage of stuff is moving?

The first was a dealbreaker for them, and they never answered the second question.

This past week a new person at the company with a pretty amazing name contacted me. They're putting together their next show! They want my work!

I asked the same questions. I wonder if I'll get an answer to the second one this time.

(Googling the company suggests no; apparently their deal is that showing requires you to sell about $200 worth of tickets, and there's really not much sales happening to an audience that is mostly the friends and family of the amateur artists/musicians/clothiers/etc exhibiting. Sounds like a great deal, sign me right up! Always do your research on deals that sound too good to be true, kids.)

Comics Advice

A friend asked for comics-making advice on Twitter. I had some. Oh, did I have some. Maybe some other people following me would like advice on making comics from me, so I’ll cut and paste them into a blog post (and expand on them a little)…

 

Don’t. They’re a ton of work and a major pain in the ass and there’s a zillion other people making comics and getting people to look at anything longer than ten panels these days is an uphill battle.

But if you must…

Find your own level of reuse. Backgrounds. Character elements. How much are you comfortable with? You probably don’t want to assemble 90% of your panels out of art you drew once and copy/paste forever, but you also probably don’t want to draw every tiny screw on your main character’s prosthetic arm every damn time. Consider how you can limit how complex you can get on a page – are you allowed gradients/hatching/etc? Are you going to limit your palette? (I like doing that a lot.)

If you’re full color, how can you make this fast and easy to repeat? Can you make brushes for complex parts of character? For instance if a character has a tattoo or a complex logo: make a brush, deposit tons of detail with one quick stroke. Pull out the brush specifically marked as being for character X’s hair. Maybe end up with close/mid/long shot versions of these things, because you need less detail for longer shots, your choice.

Some of the styles I’m accumulating for Parallax stuff.

(Organizing brushes/color palettes/graphic styles/etc by character can be super helpful. The more you can pack into one click, the better; lately I’ve been starting to make lists of Graphic Styles in Illustrator, labeled with something like “Olivia prosthetic arm”, “Union logo”, or “Lexy hair cu”; these might just be a simple flat fill, or they might be a complex assemblage of settings and brushes. It’s a lot faster to go from a rough to a finished drawing this way than it is to manually pick a color and a brush and go at it. I dunno if other art programs can do this but it’s super useful if you’re an Illustrator person like me.)


Decide how many pages/week you want and how much time you wanna spend, enforce this rigorously (until you don’t). I mean I went from two pages a week on Rita to a climax that took six months to draw and it was… pretty hard. Worth it but hard. I’d usually spend 2-4 hours drawing Rita on most weekdays because I am a big slacker compared to most comics people. Or most comics people are workaholics and I am not; decide what fits into your life and your finances.

And: abandon “perfect” for “good enough”. If you still think it needs to be better when you put together the collection, then you can spend a little time fixing it. You’ve aimed yourself at a schedule of X pages every Y days, with Z hours available to work on it; you can’t lavish three days on finessing every panel.

(Personally the schedule that works best for me is “aim for two pages a week, don’t sweat it if life gets in the way”. That way I never feel the temptation to waste time drawing a “SORRY NO PAGE TODAY” image. If all you have to work on the comic this week is two hours, you’re a ton better off putting those two hours into working on the next page, or that crazy scene-setting spread coming up in ten pages, or plotting, or anything. Yes, I know a lot of the webcomics pioneers will tell you you need new content on a constant, never-broken schedule. This was true back in the days before Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or a zillion other ways for someone to subscribe to your regular feed of updates; now I think it’s not so crucial. You still wanna aim for regular updates, because that will keep you constantly working on the comic. But use your limited drawing time wisely.)

If you can’t write worth a damn then you need to find someone to work with who can. Ideally come up with something together that you both love playing with. And: Make sure your main character is FUN TO DRAW as you will be drawing them a LOT. What that means, exactly, is up to you. You know what you love to draw. You know what you can just about draw with your eyes closed. Use this knowledge.

(Writing is its whole other domain. There is a ton of writing advice out there. Here’s some of mine.)

Don’t make all your characters just like you. Flip a coin for every character’s gender, unless there is a compelling reason for them to have a particular one. Or roll a die if you want to include genderqueer/enby/etc types. Same for skin tone and whatnot. And consider cultural/racial associations even if you’re drawing cartoon animals! It’s really really easy to default to making every single character a straight white dude, because we have so much history in the US of comics being by and for straight white dudes.

Put your first draft dialogue in the page, if you’re working digitally then keep refining it as you work on the art. Always make sure there is room for the balloons, and that the reading order flows from one to the next, before you invest a ton of love into some background detail that ends up being the only place to cram a word balloon. For more on this, go check out this essay by Eddie Campbell; I do not claim his guidelines are the One And Only Way, but my stuff got a lot more readable once I started thinking about the word balloon placement this way.

Don’t get lost in studies and pre-planning. It’s easy to do this. Very easy. Ultimately what matters is “did you get the next page done?”. That said, usually if I find myself blocked on a page it’s because it’s time to sit down and nail down the plot of the next few pages, maybe do some super-rough layouts. (I don’t write a formal script in advance, just an outline.)

Make page templates. Use them. Traditional? Draw your margins on a piece of paper, add in markings for common page divisions, put that on the lightbox and put a blank page on top of it and rule out the panel borders you figured out in your thumbnails. Digital? New page from template, oh look now I have a file for this page already set up with the standard palettes/brushes/styles, several layers of grids I can turn on and off (maybe to use straight, maybe to just use as a skeleton to build something crazy and fluid off of), the beginnings of my standard layer setup, some word balloons to copy-drag, and everything else I need to just dump my notes in and start drawing.

Using references is not cheating; never underestimate the power of a reference selfie for that hard pose. Or a reference photo of a family member, lover, or studio-mate. Or something from a Google Images search. Or a maquette. Use it long enough to get what you need out of it, then put it away and do the rest of the drawing yourself. But speed up those hard poses.

Anyway. “Don’t draw comics, kid, they’ll break your heart,” as Jack Kirby once said. It’s a lot of effort for a tiny, tiny chance at enough people reading it to support you in the time they take, never mind the dreams of it turning into a transmedia franchise that makes you and a lot of other people a lot of money.

why taxes make me angry

Dealing with taxes always makes me angry.

Not so much because I am a dragon who may be about to part with money. I am fine with that. I like paying for my part of public goods. No, what makes me angry is that it’s super-complicated, and that all the robots that will help me deal with this complexity are maintained by companies that spend part of their profits on lobbying to keep the tax code as complicated as possible, so that they can continue to have a source of income.

It also does not help that there are multiple companies competing in this arena. Some with names that trigger my scam detector. All linked to from the IRS’ pages. Oh great, I get to make an extra choice on top of all the other decisions I am about to make – which tax software purveyor do I trust? Oh, to be able to just go to the official IRS site, authorize it to connect to various accounts, and be pretty much done with the process right then and there.

But no. We need to have “choice”. Just like we need to have “choice” in our health insurance options. Fuck lobbyists, and fuck every business whose sole raison d’etre is to get in the middle of an important part of the basic functions of living in a large society and find a way to siphon off as much money as possible.

And then I’m angry about politics and Citizens United and psychopaths who justify being acting in the interests of hateful corporations by wanking off to Ayn Rand and I just wanna flip a table and scream and rage and my taxes still haven’t been dealt with.

fills out form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and puts it in the mail

…I’ll deal with this later. Like, as much later as I possibly can.

The Rose Mob

 

So yesterday I did something I’d been needing to do for a long, long time: I finalized the designs for Lexy’s droogs in Five Glasses of Absinthe. I can now start drawing panels they appear in.

This is, in fact, a drawing from the comic; they were drawn small, and then blurred, but I liked these drawings too much to leave them at that. So I tweaked them a tiny bit, scaled them up, and did some quick text.

Their names are (currently, L-R) Pulchello, Mouse, and Alea. Pulchello’s gender is “bishi”. If you were wondering. We briefly imagined a spin-off in which they, along with their leader Lexy, roam around the Skylands in a van, solving mysteries. Sort of a queer, diverse reboot of Scooby Doo for the Millenials. But I’m pretty sure the guy animating Mystery Skulls videos is a lot further along the road of that show pitch.

I kinda want this on a t-shirt.

cohabitation

Last night, I was snacking on a handful of trail mix in the kitchen. One piece missed my mouth and ended up on the floor. Call it slovenliness, call it winter depression, whatever you like; I left it there.

Later on when I came into the kitchen to start some dinner, there was a crowd of ants around it. I was tired, and still pretty low on energy in general, so I just sighed and did what I was in there to do without stepping on them or cleaning it up. I would’ve had to figure out how to get rid of them, preferably with a minimum amount of killing ants or getting bitten, and it just felt like work. I’d deal with it in the morning, I figured.

When I got up this morning, the bit of trail mix was gone, and so were the ants. Hooray for peaceful resolution of my conflicts.

I should still probably finally take out the trash that’s been accumulating for a few weeks, though.