In Which There is A Week Until Otakon!

I’m taking my own advice, and charging head first against a blank screen despite the deep terror I’m feeling looking at it. Let’s do this!

For the first time since I’ve returned from Japan, I’m going to be tabling at Otakon’s Artist Alley in one week! I’m really excited to be coming back to what I consider my “home” convention. I was so sad I couldn’t go last year, but by teeth had other plans. Thanks root canal!

I’ve promised myself this year to start prepping early, so I thought sharing my process in prepping for an artist alley would be fun and informative for those of you curious about running your own table in the future, or just wondering what all goes into being in artist’s alley.

This year I’m not focusing on the 8.5 x 11 prints like I have in previous years. In the last few shows I’ve done, people’s interest tends to lean towards my smaller items, or bigger items, but the old 8.5 x 11 are collecting dust, sadly. This year I’m experimenting with having 8.5 x 5.5 prints, which works really well with my watercolors. I’ll be looking for feedback at Otakon about the bigger prints, but if enough people don’t express a want for them, I’ll be phasing the size out of my prints permanently.

 

I just received these prints from CatPrints and am super happy with them. I even gave their holographic papers a go, which came out great…

 

This new way of approaching my prints creates a conundrum. Pricing. Price too high, no one will buy– price to low and… ulgh, I can’t think of a good rhyme here, but you get the idea. Pricing too low is not good either. While you may sell a lot (or everything), you may not make the production cost + time/effort put into making it back, which will set you back instead of further ahead (which is the goal, right?). This is why at artist alleys you generally see letter sized prints around the same price range. Because these are nice quality prints, some with the special holographic screen, I need to charge more, but what’s a good price? I’m thinking $12 for the plain prints, and $15 for the holographic ones.

But what do you think? To expensive? Not enough? Or just right?

 

SPX!

Blog, let’s stop meeting like this okay? But I guess it’s good that I’ve been too busy to write? Right?

 

SPX IS IN THREE DAYS, EVERYONE!

Ever since I finished the GPM comic, I’ve been fully focused on getting things ready for SPX. Namely…

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TADA! The first seven pages of my new webcomic will be making it’s debut this weekend! Tokyo HEART Story has been something I’ve been working on for several years on and off, so it’s really really awesome for me to finally have printed pages of it in my hands that I can share with the world X3

I finished the final touch ups of formatting the book this weekend, and spent Sunday evening collating, folding, and stapling. That’s right, every one of these books was hand crafted by me (like 95%, since I didn’t print them personally, but I did everything else lol). This is the first time I have prepped my zines myself, as I’ve always had the printers do it. I feel very attached to this comic, so I wanted to oversee the presentation myself, which meant even folding everything page by page. Yes, it’s a little crazy, but the books look so cute, so it was totally worth it.

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I have a very limited number of these books, so if you would like to buy one from me, please find me early! I also made some fabulous Tokyo HEART Story postcards to give away.

Along with the preview, I will have postcards of my paintings, prints, and copies of the SugarNinjas volumes I’ve appeared in, and I’ll also be taking commissions at the show. I’ll have some watercolors, a selection of Copics (maybe?), and I will have blank paper covered Moleskines and a few shikishi if you are interested in a commission on one of those.

If you are coming to the show, please stop by table 83 and say hi! I even made a map!

 

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This will be my first comic convention I’ve ever tabled at. In the past, I’ve always tabled at anime conventions. I cannot express how nervous but excited I am about this weekend. I finally get to meet people I’ve been talking to online for year(s), and be a total comic nerd the whole weekend.

P.S. you can also talk to me about Dragon Age, but I may never shut up about it so… do so at your own risk!

In Which Comic Pages are Made

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I LIIIIIIIIIVE! Okay, so I’ve been incredibly busy with getting the pages done for the project for NASA that I talked about in my last post (three months ago *cough cough*). All the finished pages, including cover and the like, were sent off this week! Like I mentioned before, I was sharing quite a bit of my progress on social media, but in case you missed it, I thought it would be neat to break down my process for creating comic pages.

 

thumbnailed!

When making comic pages, it’s incredibly important to start with a plan, so your storytelling will make cohesive sense– so thumbnails are crucial, despite me hating every moment of making them. They are a necessary evil. Just like outlines. You can see that I like to keep everything rough and flowing as much as I can. This is because I have a tendency to try stiff figures, lacking any dynamism. So if I start with things having lots of energy, my hope is to keep that energy going into the final version of the page. Also important, although I don’t have it pictured here, I thumbnail my pages in groups of four at a time, so I can check to make sure I’m keeping my layouts varied, and also helps give me an idea of what the pages will look like side by side.

Also note that from the very beginning I’m thinking about word balloon placement, and how it the reader’s eye would move from one thing to another– because having to cover up a character’s head up with a word balloon due to the fact that you have no place else to put it is a very bad thing.

While I don’t get into hyper details for the figures or faces, and they are mostly stick figures with easy to read expressions, but I will build off of that to create the final drawing in pencils. After the thumbnails are done, I scan them in, and print them at my rough draft size in light blue ink (1/2 the size I ink at, and the size the comic will be printed at).

 

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This is where things get a bit bananas visually, but it’s my system of working, so I guess it only needs to make sense to me? Building off of the print out I did of the roughs, I start to draw the figures in using blue and/or red pencil, depending on what I am working on. As you can see on this page, I’ll put the basic word-balloon/text-box in red for future reference. Once the pencils are finished, I scan the page in again, this time super large so it can be doubled in size when printed out for inking. With the pencil drawing on the computer, I will digitally adjust anything that needs adjusting (sizes of heads that got away with me, different placement of characters, etc), and then blue the lines and print it out on 11 x 17 400 grade britsol paper.

 

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Inking, I suppose is pretty self explanatory– although it is harder than it seems. When you are inking, you have to think about the line weight you are drawing and how that relates to where it is in the foreground, etc etc. You also have to think about what to leave white, what to color in. I usually go more into depth with where I place my spot blacks– since I generally make comic pages in black and white. Since this was intended for color, I left mostly everything empty. The page feels super thin and bare like this, but it’s what the next step needed so…

 

flatting

I don’t usually color my pages at all, but the few times I have, I haven’t used this flattening technique (which I got from Jason Brubaker on his reMIND website) until this project. The tutorials on the page point to a Photoshop plug-in that will actually automatically do basic flatting for you and you get this amazing color effect with super bright colors. I liked the colors so much on the last panel, I actually kept those colors, but blended them into the grey of her skirt. I only did a few pages using this plug-in, however, because I found that it slowed me down. I instead went back to my painterly way that I usually color my pages. It’s probably all wrong, but it works for me, and that’s what matters!

 

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And then the finished product over many hours of work! The reason why I don’t like coloring my own pages, is because I have to stare at them for so long, I start to really hate my art because I start to see everything wrong with it. It just extends my coloring process tenfold. I am happy with how this page came out, however, so, I guess it all works out (。◕ ∀ ◕。)

 

So what’s next for Aja? Well, SPX is about a month away and I… am not really ready for it, as I’ve been working on this project. But now is the time to start pushing to get everything ready for my indie comic con debut *sparkles sparkles*

 

I’ve decided to go with the romance story, as it is much shorter, and I have done a lot of development for it. So… drumroll please… my next comic will be called Tokyo Story (or Tokyo Heart Story). As the title implies, I’ll be drawing on my experiences in Japan, but the focus will actually be more on relationships and looking into how we fall in love. It’s the kind of story I can play in all day, and I cannot wait to show you all! After SPX, the debut of the webcomic version of it will be sometime in October. I haven’t set an exact date yet, but I will be talking about it a lot in the weeks to come!

Process: ALE-vent Calendar

Ale-vent CalendarSo in the month long hiatus, a lot of things happened. In my last post, I mentioned my new job, which is still keeping me busy. But then there was also a few secret projects thrown in the mix during the end of October, and entire month of November, some of which I can’t share just yet. I may have also been introduced to Dragon Age: Origins, and put a shameful amount of hours into within two weeks. And yes, I am sure Alistair art is coming. Count on it.

This is one of the projects that I can talk about (Hooray!). About two weeks ago, a friend of mine approached me with the idea of making an advent calendar, with beer– hence, the ALE-vent calendar. While I’m not a beer drinker, I really liked the idea. After a long conversation on what the advent calendar’s illustration would become, we agreed on an old-time-y illustration something in the vein of Art Nouveau– which could be argued has been played out recently, but sue me, I’ve been an admirer of the style since I got into art and have been a Mucha fangirl for many, many years.

I was so into the idea of the calendar, that I also offered to help assemble the three boxes of beer into their advent-ness? (is that a word??) My friend did most of the leg work for gathering materials and taking measurements, but he wasn’t sure how it would work or how we would go about preparing it– so that’s where my old 3-D art classes came in handy!

 

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So before starting anything, I gathered all of my materials and made precise mock-ups of how the top would fit on the boxes.

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And when gathering the materials, that meant also gathering the beer. There was so much beer…

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Because this was an ambitious project that took a bunch of space up, no inch of space was spared, including my bed, when we were in the processes of printing and testing how things would work. The illustration was printed out on large Bristol paper, which, when double layered with the template paper for cutting the openings, I thought would be strong enough.

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A final print mock-up measurement sheet of where the tabs would be cut was measured out and triple checked.

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We attached the illustrations on the Bristol paper to the paper with the cutting template using a spray adhesive. Since the boxes needed to hold for a bit, not to mention cutting with an x-acto knife, the glue was spayed twice, and allowed to get tacky before we attach it. Then it was time to cut out the boxes for the beer!

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Everything all cut and ready to go on top of the box!

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The tops were then taped down to the box, and then wrapped around the sides in wrapping paper. Since I am awful when it comes to wrapping things, that was left to much more capable people. (Seriously, never ask me to wrap any presents– you will be disappointed).

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And here’s the final product, with the sampling of beer for the first night of the Ale-vent!