Today, I woke up early. Early enough to go do yoga but I blew it off because of a small website weirdness that needed fixing.
Soon after that, I found myself looking for a particular book in my library. “Unauthorized Portraits”, a collection of Edward Sorel's work. I couldn't find it. I ended up going through all the piles of books and comics sitting in front of the shelves, waiting to be put in place, and finally doing just that. I held myself to my promise to not get more shelves when the current ones got full; the pile of books that was destined for the used bookstore has grown. And is now in the studio in several boxes, waiting for the next visit from Nick – I proposed renting a car to take them around a few used bookstores, then to take us to dinner, and he thought that sounded like a good idea.
In the middle of this shelving frenzy, I found myself in the studio, glaring at the “books to read” pile next to the reading chair. One of that chair's legs broke a while back, and I haven't gotten around to getting it fixed, so my “to read” pile has been growing out of hand. I now have the chair sitting upside down near the door; after determining that I was not going to be disassembling it and attempting to bodge the broken leg on, I put the folding chair where the reading chair lives.
I will have to call a carpenter to get the thing somehow fixed soon. Because it's a lovely chair that I got for a fraction of what something as stylish as it normally goes for. But right now I am sitting in the Reading Spot next to the window in my backup folding chair, and I just finished going through several volumes of BPRD: Hell on Earth that are overdue at the library.
I need to get a small longbox to put my comics in, and there are still a few books kicking around, but the ecosystem around me reading is in much better shape. Which will help make me happier. And make it easier for me to sit down with research materials for Drowning City…
I did not get any art done but damn, today was definitely a day full of some work that had been put off for far too long. I am not completely done shaving this particular yak – chair repair and a comics box need to happen – but two cluttered, dysfunctional corners of my apartment are now USABLE again.
I just got Sanjay Patel’s lovely adaptation of the Ramayana. Lengthy narrative in a super-designey flat color mode? That’s my happy place. Right there.
Looking at it and thinking about adaptations, plus thinking about the Monument Valley trip I’m planning, plus having just decided I want to memorize ‘Ozymandias’, combined into “I will do a test of my templates for Drowning City to do an adaptation of Ozymandias, starring George Herriman as the nameless traveller who tells Shelley about this evocative remnant.”
I need to think a bit more about what exactly is going on in the passage about how well the head’s “sculptor well those passions read / Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, /The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;” before I commit to the panels I sketched around it. Whose hand and heart, exactly? Ozymandias’? Someone else? I threw Kalinda into those panels as some kind of fabulous monster Ozymandias’ forgotten deeds involved him slaying, it might be fun to have her in some sort of weird relationship with Ozymandias in the rest of them. (Also that is intended to be a humanish version of her in the last panel, telling Shelly to stop bogarting the opium. I definitely feel this could wind through the whole story…)
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—”two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”</p>
Its nihilism will be, I think, a pleasing counterpart to the aggressive lack on meaning that is “Jabberwocky”, the only other poem I’ve bothered to memorize.
Some things I've learnt about doing large projects over the course of doing Rita.
These are the principles that have let a complete slacker with no discernible work ethic like myself get a dense, 200p graphic novel done all by herself. Other people might have taken less than four years to do it, but I don't care. I've spent the time and energy my highly distractable, intensely solar-powered nervous system allowed me to spend on it, without ever turning a passion project into drudgery and an obligation.
A friend is debating moving from Arizona to Seattle. Telling them some of my thoughts on living in Seattle as a very solar powered person somehow became me talking myself into taking a desert vacation. To Monument Valley, specifically – I’ve wanted to visit there for most of my life, ever since falling in love with the caricature of it Herriman set “Krazy Kat” in.
I couldn’t do it by myself; it’s really a destination that requires driving to get around. But I think I may have just managed to propose a weekend trip to my ex-with-benefits, who does drive. And I have enough points piled up on Southwest that we could fly to Salt Lake City, which is only about a 6-hour drive from there. He’d proposed just driving but that’s about an 18 hour drive each way, over nasty wintry mountains, sort of over the edge of what’s quite sane.
Will this stoned impulse turn into a brief “charge up on solar power” vacation? We will see.
Stuff I did today:
I joined a hashtag going around on Twitter. #fourcomics that were important to you as a creator/fan. I couldn’t keep it down to just four so I posted twice:
Thrice, actually, if you count me wondering if the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics counted as one. Because man that really shaped my interest in the wild stuff done at the beginning of the 20th century back when people were making up the rules with entire broadsheets to play with.
And then I sprawled on the floor of my studio reading some of these, thinking about how more than a few of them were larger formats than the standard “comic book” size the American industry has settled on. Even the Howarth example I chose was slightly oversized, and had some beautiful examples of full-page designs going on, especially in the “Mad Empress” stories. This lead to pondering page formats for “Drowning City”; I’ve been trying to find the right shape for it, and I think I have arrived at “8×12 book, held sideways, so you see one big page at a time”. I shot off a quote request; if I can get that with lay-flat binding in paperback at a reasonable price, then that’s the shape of what I’ll be spending the next few years working on. (And I am kind of amazed that I’m casually making decisions like that. When did I start taking that long a view of my work?)
Ultimately I keep coming back to the thought that the climax of the story involves falling, and I want to be able to do some very vertical compositions to work with that. I scribbled down some other ideas of things to do with a One Big Page At A Time aesthetic that I think will contribute to the story; I even have ideas on which parts of the story I want to use these for. I may post some of these (plus some of the various doodles in the current Drowning City sketchbook) soon.
(Part of me wants to do something even bigger but (a) expense and (b) man it’s really hard to READ those full-size Nemos. Part of it is due to the way they were written to be read once a week, part is due to the fact that McCay’s plot and dialogue are really just excuses for him to draw whatever crazy architecture he’s obsessed with at the moment. But part of it is due to “holy shit this hardback book is half my height”.)
I then went out to the dentist and had a little bit of drilling and filling, and a lot of cleaning, happen. Did you know that if the light’s just right, you can see a wisp of particulate tooth enamel coming out of your mouth when they drill? Did you know that it has a uniquely unpleasant, slightly burnt scent? I did not know this until now.
And then I wandered downtown to have a late lunch and hook up with the exes for a movie. I had an hour to kill so I wandered through Barnes & Noble, and picked up a couple of books on Celtic myth, which I may be mining for weird little bits and bobs for “Drowning City”.
And finally, the movie. “Inherent Vice”, based on the Pynchon novel of the same name. We all enjoyed it; Nick was a bit worried because he’d noticed that it had the fewest stars of anything playing at the theatre, but all the reviews were bad in a way that suggested it was simply Not For those people. We were perfectly prepared for a stoner noir picture that never really laid out the crazy conspiracy running through it; if you go into that movie expecting to actually understand the labyrinthine affairs of the Golden Fang, you will be disappointed. But if you expect a bunch of really kind of insane people wandering around 1970s Los Angeles, you will get that. In spades.
I had a few moments of LA nostalgia. Unsurprising, really. Living in LA was complicated and stressful and kind of horrile in some ways, and I’m nto about to go back down there and try to hop into the animation industry again, but it can be gorgeous.
Anyway. Guess it’s about bedtime.
So there is this BDSM orientation test going around. It asks a bunch of questions about how you feel about various kinky things, then spits out some results.
These results are really not too surprising. The only thing I'd quibble with is that I'm much more of a “brat” in bed than a “brat tamer”. But I am definitely a bitey bitch who will leave you covered in clawmarks, and is perfectly happy for you to respond in kind. And for you to call me a “slutbeast” while doing so.
But first you have to convince me you're more interesting than Illustrator.
I’m looking at the final version of that Drowning City test image I did yesterday and I am delighted: it looks exactly like the way it looked in my head when it started coming together in the winter of 2001. It always needed to be painterly and messy and modelled, in a way that I simply did not have the skills for back then. I could maybe mess it up a tiny bit more; I’ll have to think about ways to do that quickly and efficiently.
I feel like I could make this look happen about as quickly as I do Rita once I get into the groove. Which feels like a big speed-up from the somewhat similar look I was chasing in Absinthe – I really hadn’t learnt to simplify a lot of the process yet, and I was having to constantly think about things like “how opaque do I want this shadow to be, and what blending mode should I use?”. I should revisit my Absinthe templates and codify a bunch of stuff the same way I did for Drowning City, so that I can hit the ground running when I resume dong that, too. (Absinthe was also slow because of all the elaborate backgrounds I was doing, of course! That probably won’t change. Though they might go a little faster with what I’ve learnt in the time doing the Tarot deck and Rita.)
It’s going to be really exciting to actually get to use things like “blurs” and “textures” and “smooth color transitions” again. Though I’m sure I’ll be aching to return to the simple flat colors of Rita by the time I finish Drowning City. Or maybe not; maybe I’ll want to start doing something even more visually ambitious. Who knows?
Anyway. The immediate future of my drawing hand mostly involves more Rita. And more pre-production work on Drowning City – more character portraits, website design, and research. There is mythology I need to read!
I’d made a couple of little test fragments, but I felt it was time to do a real test image for The Drowning City.
As I did this, I tried to codify what I was doing into a handful of styles. For Rita, I’d just do flat colors and the occasional brush, but this has a lot of settings going on – pretty much everything listed in this palette does the equivalent of poking at three or four other palettes to choose a color, maybe a gradient, maybe an art brush, and add some effects to it. Much easier to just do it once and save it.
As I work on the comic, this will probably expand – I’ll have a few styles for various bits of each character, maybe stick some details into art brushes like I did on Rita, and in general use a lot of Illustrator tricks to let me do complex imagery without much work.
(Come to think of it, doing a couple more drawings of some of the other main characters might be a good way to refine this toolkit, and add more bits I may need.)
Edit. Worked on the styles for a little longer; took out a lot of use of ‘roughen’, gave the shading styles a bit of an extra halo, and refined the art brushes. It is still messy and organic but it was a little too messy before.
…was the second-worst con I’ve ever been to. The coveted spot of “worst con ever” was Bent-Con, a queer-oriented comic con in LA where I sold all of $100 worth of stuff in the first two days, and blew off the last day to go to the beach.
Wizard World New Orleans 2015 was pretty good. I didn’t quite break even but I was only down $200 and had a lot of fun due to stuff like Chewbacchus rolling a couple floats and a brass band through the aisles now and then; it was a big Nerd Mardi Gras.
This year? I didn’t even cover my table, let alone flying in from Seattle. I got to sit next to someone who had bult a wall-o-prints as tall as a standing adult across the entire side of her table. Which cut down what I could see of the traffic by about half. (And when I asked her to, like, remove some of it on Sunday morning, she refused. People who do cons: please don’t do this shit if you’re in artist alley. You may TECHNICALLY be able to do it but it feels really rude, trust me. One grid’s worth of prints, I can deal with, that’s normal, but completely cutting off my view of the folks to my left? You are being an ass.)
Talking to other people as I packed up on Sunday, it turned out I was far from the only one. This was just a shitty con all around. Which is kinda heartening; it’s good to know I was not making a major mistake or anything. The various theories people floated were:
I think all of these theories account for part of these terible sales! I looked at the sign-up sheet for next year, looked at my costs and expenses, and looked at the date for next year’s con: “TBD”.
Nope. I’m not taking a crapshoot on the next one being this shitty. I would have lost money even if I was a local. I mean, yeah, it might also be awesome. It might be another Mardi Gras party con. But I am not going to flip that coin and risk starting 2016 off with a shitty con.
Basically this was the worst I’ve ever done at a pro-run con.
Next con: Emerald City Comic-Con. Which I made more money at even on my first, worst year.
I was skeptical about this when I first heard of it, but applied for the beta test anyway. I can now use Illustrator in a single, cramped airline or bus seat. I’d still rather use it with the keyboard and Wacom tablet in front of me, but that may change as the software takes shape.
Pro artist friends: if you have a Mac and an iPad let me know, they may be expanding their beta test in a few weeks.
Now that 2015 has begun, I have re-opened my online store. Order comics and Tarot decks, and I will get them in the mail soon afterwards!
I’m going down to Wizard World New Orleans this weekend, so if you order anything now it will definitely not be shipped until early in the week of the 19th. Plan accordingly.
Man, I love Illustrator.
This gif is cycling between the full preview render and the outline view of a tiny handful of paths, with some magic applied. It’s based on this method of creating grass, but substitutes a little triangular symbol for the generic line, and drops the ‘roughen’ effect.
It looks astoundingly close to the grass I’ve been drawing for the past few years via individual strokes with a triangular art brush, but takes a tiny fraction of the time to make happen – at this point, I have definitely spent more time documenting this than it took me to draw this grassy hill, once I had the appearance stack tweaked to my liking. And if I wanted it to be Just Right, I could easily go back and add a few more pieces of grass by hand to fix a few awkward edges.
If you want to play with my version yourself, here’s the appearance stack and effect settings. Make two green colors and switch freely between them while drawing some overlapping shapes, stick a shape behind them with just a basic solid fill, and bingo. Grassy terrain.
Stuff I did today:
Tomorrow I should work on Rita.
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.
It's the last day of 2014. If I'm going to do this, I'd better do it now.
Mostly I feel like this year was dominated by Rita. The second Kickstarter took forever to fulfil, in no small part due to me fucking up and having to reprint the book. I still haven't dealt with the shirts I promised; I should really make that happen. I may have a fulfillment partner for book 3, which will make life a LOT easier.
And of course I drew lots of pages of the comic. Going by the posted dates on my website, it looks like I drew about 100 pages this year! That's more than I thought; I feel like I could have done a LOT more if I hadn't been weighed down by the printing mistake, shipping, and winter blahs. Still, I actually managed to keep to my aim of two pages a week pretty well on average!
I finally got to be the GOH of a convention. Rainfurrest, with a theme of “cyberpunk”. Sadly our plans for the most wicked awesome con book ever (full color with a unified palette running through a lot of the art, French flaps with a super panoramic cover) fell through at the absolute last second, but I had fun. Made the most money I ever have by finally sitting there and cranking out badges on my computer. I'd be buying a small printer if I was planning on doing more furry cons any time soon, but I'm taking 2015 off from furry cons. (I will probably be social at RF2014 and might be social at Furlandia but I ain't dealing anywhere.)
I started a Patreon in February after one of my fans ASKED me if I had one so they could fund me. I think that says a lot about how that site is doing something right. It has slowly grown over the year into something that is paying half my rent on a productive month; I posted nine pages this December and got about $600 before fees. I am definitely going to be figuring out how to thank those folks in the back of volume 3. I am hopeful that by this time next year, I will be paying all my bills by drawing comics. Unless I decide to move to a more expensive place and cover part of my rent out of my savings or something.
I didn't move; I didn't have any upheavals in my social life that I can remember. I'm sure I had a couple of minor tiffs with Nick but our “ex with benefits” relationship is so low-key that those are easily dealt with.
I upgraded my living room with a new projector near the end of the year, and said “well there goes the deposit” when I drilled holes in the ceiling to mount it. That made me feel like an adult.
At ECCC, I pulled together a group booth for next year. In a much better location than I'd been in before. I'm looking forwards to that. And should take care of a few bits of business related to that, now that I think about it. I might do that when I finish writing this.
A few ideas for future projects appeared. I am just hopelessly in love win unreliable narrators; someday I must attempt to write something that actually has a narrator you can completely trust. I think I could maybe fit that in around… 2019?
I failed to find the time to finish a couple of side projects that could lead to more exposure and a little prestige. Oh well.
My mother's health took something of a hit. She's a lot less mobile than she used to be. She still seems to be interested in life, so I'm not too worried yet, but I'm feeling her mortality more than I used to. I'll be seeing her soon when I go down to New Orleans for Wizard World NO, which is really more of an excuse to see her and get some sun than it is a financial thing for me.
This year's exercise choice was pole dance classes. I would probably still be doing them if the studio hadn't closed down near the end of the year. I'm seriously debating going for circus arts next year; it really depends on how well I can get art stuff done in the two hours of bus and light rail it'd take to get there and back.
So that is the notable events in my life this year.
Looking forward to 2015: group booth at ECCC in a great location, finishing Rita, starting the next project. Not too bad. And possibly getting to the point where I am no longer living off my inheritance, either. That would be really nice. And maybe running off to join the circus.
Mostly laundry. It had piled up, I had to do two loads. I have tried to organize my life so that I only ever have to do one load (since there is only one machine in the building), and it is nice when it works, but having the machine broken last month plus winter fucked up my schedule of laundry.
I still need to fold the stuff. And I still have like a half a load left. All leggings. I may deal with that tomorrow.
Also I roughed out the next couple pages of Rita, so that's good.
Otherwise I just went for a walk, bought too many snacks at Trader Joe's, and sat in the living room reading critical articles on video games. Not much of a day, really.
Thinking about how the raw gameplay of ‘move your blip to avoid other blips’ always seems to get a ‘kill or be killed’ narrative layered on it. How can this be changed?
Direct inversion: You are given reason to want to Not Kill. Imagine you are playing Pac-Man, but instead of being killed by the ghosts when they touch you, you kill them – and it is seen as a bad thing. Perhaps you may have similar penalties as ‘losing a life’: everyone goes back to their starting point, and you can only do it three times. Perhaps you lose 25% of your score. There would need to be some reason everyone wants to be near you, despite the fact your touch is deadly.
Another inversion: ‘Throw blops to keep other blips from touching your blip’ is pretty much always cast in ‘killing’ terms. How can we change this?
Throw blops to turn other blips into your friends. Slowly the game would change, from throwing the right blops to befriend each particular blip (pink blips love pink blops, horses love apples, seahawks fans love blue/green, cops love donuts…), into moving your immense horde of blips around. Until the camera had pulled back far enough that the individual blips were impossible to make out from the group. I imagine eventually you would fill the entire zone, and to do anything interesting you’d have to zoom down and pick one blip to go through a tiny gateway into the next zone; repeat with variations until the designer runs out of interesting ideas for gameplay and/or scenery.
Saw William Gibson complaining about GamerGate recently and thought how much he’s aged, and how ungracefully, since GG and Operation Disrespectful Nod reminded me of the Panther Moderns.
- this comment on Hacker News
I have never made that connection. Now I kind of want to re-read the Sense/Net infiltration segment of ‘Neuromancer’ with that interpretation in mind. I suspect I will be a hell of a lot less prone to think of the Panther Moderns as totally rad this time.
I mean, angrily depressed thirteen year old boy me me thought the Moderns were pretty rad. But he thought a lot of dumb stuff was pretty rad. Including the word ‘rad’.
And think about it: the Moderns’ part in the raid, if I recall correctly, was to play atrocity videos on all the building’s screens, make a psuchoactive chemical leak, and DDOS the place. Their aesthetic was full-body video camoflaugue suits and total anonymity. Yeah, in my headcanon, Lupus Yonderboy is now totally sea lioning the Sprawl equivalant of #gamergate when he’s not being a l33t ha><0rr.