A Brief Review Of Nier: Automata

On the plus side while roaming Nier: Automata’s drab, sepia deserts, I figured out that my perfect AAA game would basically be “a huge, slightly-ruined castle in the middle of the desert with monsters roaming about it and bright blue skies and beautiful intense sunsets and maybe some jet skates or a grappling hook or something, and a nice character generator” and I hope someone out there is working on it because I would play the fuck out of that and now I think I wanna boot up Kingdoms of Amalur on the 360 and fuck around in its beautiful desert zones again as a poor substitute.

fame++

So the other day I was at the art store looking for a stretched canvas large enough to be hung in front of the part of the closet my projector’s beam covers, which would thus become my Magic Painting (as one does), when I ended up having something happen that made me realize I’ve gone up a notch in Notability.

A woman who works at the store came by and noticed me staring contemplatively at the rolled canvas and frames, trying to calculate how much I’d need and why it comes in different weights and… when she asked if she could help me, I made the rare choice of saying “yes, you can,” because honestly I know I know fuck-all about the ins and outs of most real media after being a CYBER ARTIST for the past sixteen years.

I told her what I was trying to do, she told me I’d probably want the cheapest weight because I wouldn’t be asking it to hold sixty layers of paint or anything, helped figure out the proper size, told me what equipment I’d need to put it together (a staple gun and not much else apparently), and then realized that they don’t even sell pre-made stretcher bars in the length of the longer side of my screen, at which her advice was “maybe just get some 2x4s for the frame”. Which is starting to sound like Serious Work or something.

I thanked her for the advice. Then she asked if I sold stuff at the comics cons. Turned out I’d sold her a copy of Rita 1 at last ECCC, and she loved it. I gave her the proper Twitter accounts to follow. (And hi, if you did follow it and hit the link to this post. I forgot your name already because I am terrible at that, even when I’m not observing 4/20 for the entire week following it…)

I am now at the level of notability where complete strangers recognize me around town every once in a while. And, holy shit. That is kind of the level of fame I aspired to as a young artist groping their way towards the animation industry, way back in the late nineties.

I guess the next level is ‘published nationally in a modest edition, out of print twenty years later, but a cherished book of a select set of people that informed something of who they are’. I guess that’s my new Realistic Career Goal. (Unrealistic Dream Goal is currently ‘Parallax is to Millenials’ kids as Star Wars was to GenX and beyond’. Which I just realized might require producing a Parallax pre/sequel of similar scale a generation later, am I gonna be alive that long, I dunno, we’ll see.)

getting stoned and listening to some dance music

Today I found myself in the shower listening to the second half of Wonky (2012). Wonky is Orbital’s previous Last Album (it was their second, and they’re going on tour again soon). The second half – or actually, the second half of the Deluxe Edition, which is what I have – is basically an hour-long Greatest Hits Of Orbital Megamix, as performed live in Australia a couple years before. I kept on having to remind myself that the shower is not a good place to have an impromptu Orbital Dance Party as a way to get a little exercise.

The first half? An hour of new Orbital. And really, it’s more Orbital, straight from the Orbital generator that lives inside the heads of the Hartnoll brothers. Start with a loop, play it a few times, vary it a little, then repeat that whole set a few times while bringing in a new loop on top of it. Fade out old loops over time, until you start seeding new loops and the composition comes to a start. Every once in a while there are words, but not many – mostly the Hartnolls just want to get a groove on, and keep it going for a while.

So the question then becomes: what is the quality of their new set of loops on hand in 2012, versus the classic set of loops that have been pleasing ears since as far back as their 1991 debut album?

But that question begs its own question: does it even matter if any of the new crop of loops is any good, when you have the Hartnolls picking up their classic loops and bringing to them all the things they’ve learnt over twenty years of making pleasing loops, putting them together in pleasing ways, and watching the crowd as they put these loops together live?

And that brings up another question: they’ve released their first single from the new album. And they’re going on tour again. If I go see them, am I volunteering to be some tiny part of the process of making the next album? I mean I’ll probably buy it, especially if they repeat Wonky’s formula of “an hour of new loops, and an hour of Greatest Orbital Hits Dance Party Megamix”. Maybe more focused on their middle albums; I’m dreaming of a 20min hybrid of P.E.T.R.O.L., Wonky, and Beezlebeat, myself. (But it looks like they’re not visiting the US on this tour, and honestly I can’t blame them right now.)

At any rate: I’ve been listening to the first half of Wonky while writing this, and, to use the current vernacular:

BRONT, THEY'RE ALL GOOD LOOPS

Also, “Beezledub”, the next preantepenultimate new track on Wonky, is a pretty good set of bangin’ dance loops. And there are some good deep drone focus loops on this too. So hey, if you’re not already stocked up on Orbital loops, I don’t think it’d be a bad place to start with Orbital. It says “here is where we are at the end of about two decades of music, and here’s where we began”, in a way rather suited to their endlessly-looping compositional structures. Especially given that the last new track is called “Where Is It Going?” and stops extremely abruptly.

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.)

Spaceship Propulsion Experiment

click for full nsfw image

this is what happens when i get stoned and draw a 420 present for someone.

fellatrix: november-4
fellated: ellu

 

3h, Adobe Illustrator.

Blatant Insertion Offer

oh hey

that porn artist who is totally not me spent an hour doing a quick doodle of my dragonsona looking horny

it’s totally nsfw. click on this thumbnail at your peril: 

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.