History Lesson

pride-2015

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling: two people of any gender can get married anywhere in the US. I painted my nails rainbow colors to celebrate. Then I decided I wanted to draw something as well, and this fell out.

Really, I feel like this is kind of the fate of every holiday celebrating some ethnicity’s independence in the US: “hey I guess these people are cool but what’s really important here is drinking funny-colored liquor. And maybe dressing funny, too.” And once every single battle a LGBTQI* activist could dream of has been won, that’s what will remain of Pride.

* * * * *

If you are the kind of person who likes to share stuff on Tumblr, I bothered to do a separate post there this time with the image chopped up for better display. It’s here.

workin’

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 4.37.57 PM

Today I hung out in a cafe with Nick and revamped my table signs for “Decrypting Rita” and its fliers. I wanted to add some of the blurbs I’ve been getting from various famous folks. Then I had the brainstorm of putting a copy of the flier on the sign behind them, so that if I happen to run out, interested people can use their phones to take a photo. I then went on to make some signs for the Tarot deck and its fliers that pulled the same trick. Now that I look at these, I am tempted to put the covers for books 1 and 2 on the signs for them, as well – the covers are pretty eye-catching IMHO.

(All of these signs are a little bit taller than the thing they describe; I put them on my little wire stands, then put the item in question on top of them.)

The Elephant

Before that, I took this elephant down from the top of my bookcase and told him some good news. He belonged to my mother when she was a small child, and hung out in her library when she was an adult. Neither me nor my aunt has any idea what his name is. Now he’s on top of my bookshelf. I figured that since I could’t call Mom any more, I’d tell him instead: I’ve got a spot in the dealer’s room at this year’s Worldcon. And this morning, a major modern SF author wrote a blog post about cool online comics he likes that included Rita. Which he noted was totally not anything like Hugo suggestions. At all. Completely.

If I ever end up with any awards, I am going to show them to this elephant, and keep them next to him. It seems like the closest I’ll ever be able to come to telling Marie-Jeanne how far I end up going.

 

one of the marks of ending

I think I just wrote the last page of “Decrypting Rita”.

I feel weirdly empty. It’s like I’ve been walking around with this story taking up an ever-increasing chunk of my head for the past four years, and now it’s gone.

There’s still stuff to do. My rough layouts need to be turned into finished drawings. First-draft dialogue may change. There may be some gloss shenanigans, and of course there’s those two super-complicated pages to draw. And the epilogue to do.

There is less than I thought there would be to the ending. I’m going to throw together a CBZ of the last volume tomorrow, and see what my Patreon supporters think. They will have questions about the ending; this is intentional. If the questions they have are the ones I want them to have, then it’s a success. There’s a giant hole in the climax this story and it’s crucial that it’s the shape I want it to be.

anyway. I’m gonna go do something simple now. Play an easy video game, read a well-written but shallow book, or maybe just stare off into space for a little while. Something lightweight.

synopsys

I just spent two and a half hours writing a synopsis of Decrypting Rita. It is approximately 2200 words long, and probably needs editing.

The spur to do this was Oni Press opening up submissions next month. Will they bite? I dunno. They say they’re explicitly looking for femme/lgbtq creators and stories, which I emphatically am, but I’m not going to hold my breath that they’ll decide to go with a 400p full color book that uses spot gloss throughout the intereors from a creator who’s making all of a hundred bucks a page on Patreon. I am hoping to at least get a personalized rejection of the form “WOW, but sorry, nope”.

So once I get that pitch pack off to them, I’ll probably turn around and send it to all the other comics publishers with any kind of open submissions policy, and some graphic novel divisions of Real Publishers as well.

And then I go back to drawing. Because right now I have about 10-20 pages left to rough out; once I’ve done that, it’ll be possible to put together a WIP of the whole book. I’ve got to do the final art and text on them, including the super complicated two pages that are next in sequence – but the end is very, very near. I mean, then there’s the Kickstarter campaign for it, and printing and distributing the books, and all that stuff. But the real work is almost done. Four years and some months. Writing and drawing everything by myself.

I am not going to think about drawing comics for at least a month afterwards.

Impending endings.

I woke up this morning thinking about chapter 25 of Rita.

This happens every now and then. It's an important chapter, with a story event that I've been planning since the very first thoughts of “wouldn't it be cool to do parallel storylines on the same page”.

Thing is? This time, it's the next chapter to rough out. I have been looking ahead to this chapter for four years; it's been the distant light in the darkness that I've been navigating by for all that time. It's gained more details as I've gotten closer, but it's still felt like it's been a million miles away for all that time. Now, suddenly, it's right there in front of me.

It's kind of scary. Have I laid adequate groundwork for it to make sense? Will I be able to pull off the complicated drawing necessary for it to look anything like how I've envisioned it these past four years? I don't know. I have some ideas for how to do this bubbling up from the back of my brain; I'm confident that one of them will work well enough. I may get off the rails of my two pages a week schedule again; I may not. If I keep it on schedule that's awesome, but I'd rather take the time this chapter needs – it took me four years to get here, I don't think a week or three either way is going to matter. I'm going to finish this thing properly.

 

 

 

 

 

And then I get to hold off celebrating. Because the book won't be done quite yet. There will be about twenty pages after that climactic moment that have to try and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, despite the pointed absence of one important event.

Anyway. Guess I should have some breakfast and get to work.

YAYYYYYY

I just uploaded what is probably the last Rita page of this month to Patreon. And did some math. If nobody changes their pledge, I’m about to make about $600. For drawing comics about a lesbian robot with reality problems.

Kermit the Frog, flailing with delight.

YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!1!!!!!

Damn but I love crowdsourcing micropayments into real money. Seriously; there are a few people who are kind enough to contribute double-digit values per page, but take those folks out and I think the average donation is probably something like .85¢/page.

Is this an early-mover advantage that I’m part of, or a change in how easy it is to turn a passion project like Rita into something that can be sustainable as a job? I don’t know. I know it helps a lot that I had the funds to support myself for the three and a half years I’ve been drawing Rita so far. And that I’ve been drawing at a professional level of skill for about a decade. I know there are people out there who talk about “Kickstarter fatigue” now that some high-profile projects have underdelivered or outright failed, and I’m sure those people are predicting the doom of Patreon and other crowdsourcing as a fad. But on the other hand it might just be that these things will turn out to work best for projects of a certain scope; twenty people working on a game for a year and a half are going to burn through a lot more money than one person working on a comic for four years. (And tangentially: oh man Hover is going to have its first playable alpha soon, SO EXCITED – but I digress.)

As always, when I talk about my Patreon campaign: a huge thanks goes to everyone who donates to support my work, and please don’t feel at all guilty if you’re not one of them. If you do feel guilty about it, you can also support my stuff by telling your friends how neat it is, or starting a TVTropes page about it, or… whatever, you know? Or if you know someone who’s donating, do something neat for them.

 

upcoming anniversaries

I just realized that if my page count estimate is correct, and I can keep up an average of two pages a week, I will finish drawing Decrypting Rita in April 2015. Which will be four years, to the month, since I started drawing it.

It’ll be around 185 pages. Which will work out to a bit less than 50 pages a year. A big chunk of that time went to dealing with the Kickstarters, especially for book 2, and to going to cons and recovering from them. But I’m still pretty damn slow as these things go.

Whatever. It’s the pace I’m comfortable working at; it gives me time to let stuff percolate, and to take a while for a really crazy detail-heavy page when necessary.

Back to the comics mines.

I just uploaded three pages to the Rita queue. Chapter 20 will start showing up this week. Woo!

Now to see if I can actually start getting pages out again on at least a weekly basis. There is at least one Very Complicated Page near the end of this chapter that will probably cause a halt in regular updates when I get to it. If it does then, well, that’s life. Or maybe I’ll manage to start poking at it in tiny bits as I work on the four pages that precede it and have it ready to go. I won’t hold my breath, though.

I was hoping to have all of Rita done near the beginning of 2015, but it’s looking more and more like I’ll finish it in spring or summer. That’s life, I guess.

 

texture experiment

I was sitting around answering questions in the Illustrator subreddit when I found a link to a neat tutorial on faking toothbrush splatters in Illustrator.

So I tried it out.

toothbrush-texture-rita

I added a wrinkle to it that the tutorial didn’t bother with; instead of having a lot of duplicated shapes with grained-up gradients over flat fills, I just added a new fill to my shapes with the Appearance palette, then gave them various linear and radial fills that I added the grain filter to and set to multiply mode. Less shapes are better, in my mind, because it’s a ton easier to go in and tweak things for just the right curve.

(You could also just draw the grainy gradients inside the shapes, which upon reflection would probably be a bit faster, but I dunno, I just like the technical sweetness of the Appearance palette sometimes.)

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out for a 15-minute doodle. I may have to do a more involved piece using this effect sometime in the future.

Here’s the AI source if you want to poke around.

(If you’ve read Rita, please do not try to read any significance into my color choices – this is just me picking random colors that felt fun together.)