The State of Things – Summer 2016

Let’s get the sad news out first– I won’t be making it to Otakon this year. Last week I was having killer tooth pain. Went to the dentist to find out that I need to get a root canal, and due to a stupid insurance loophole, the first day I can get my root canal is August 11th, the day before the con. Not to mention the expense of the procedure (over $1000) will require everything I’ve saved for the con (and so much more ulgh), being able to talk to people will not be in the cards that weekend either. So I made the call to not go this year. I’m really upset about this, because this is the last year of Otakon in Baltimore, and I’ve spent 17 years of my life going (almost) every year (I think I get a pass for the years I was in Japan ^^;;). But here’s to next year in DC~! As long as you can get to the con via Metro, I’ll be there :D

 

Now the serious announcement.

 

About a year ago, I made a choice. I was hot off of finishing the pages for NASA, and I needed to quickly decide what comic I was developing I would start as a webcomic for SPX. I had two projects “ready” and I had to choose which one to go with. I chose Tokyo Heart Story for a number of reasons. Now with a year of work under my belt, and only 13 pages to show for it…  I’m starting to think I made the wrong decision. It’s been a year since I started working on THS, and I’m still in the same corner I wrote myself in before even starting the comic. And it’s completely frustrating to me that I can’t make this story work, to the point every time I start to work on it again, I get stressed out all over again trying to make the pieces fit.

(But to be honest, I was nervous about it before I even launched it– the night before the site went up, I literally had a panic attack on how not ready I was to launch. This has been a constant state. I thought it was just nervous jitters, but now I know better.)

Mix in with all of that a crisis of the state of where my art is, and a drive to try to level up my drawing skills, and well, you get a mess.

Which is exactly what I feel like I am right now.

A hot mess.

So, I spoke with my circle of trust this week, and discussed the feelings and frustrations I have, and how it feels like this is holding up everything else in my life (both personal and creatively). They unanimously agreed that perhaps a hiatus would be a good choice– maybe even a permanent one. I’m not sure about that, but one of my friends suggested working on another project I have cooking for a while, and see if that either clears the block for THS, or takes over and well, then I have another project to work on. And I have to agree that sounds like a better plan. So for the next few months I’m going to be focusing on sharpening my skills, while trying to get some development work for a different series. And if I find myself starting to draw THS stuff again, all the better, right?

This decision was not one I came to easily, and I’m trying to take a positive look on this and not just have it be a project I quit. I love all of the characters dearly in THS (esp the last one that has yet to be introduced, despite being a main character T^T), not to mention the story is a very personal one for me. And maybe this is the root of my issue? Maybe it’s too personal of a story that I’m not ready to share with the world. Hmm.

 

Anyway, this blog will continue to be updated and all of you will be able to see what I’m working on. I’m trying to focus on next year, and the year after that. For the first time, I’m making a life plan. And it seems pretty great.

Thank you all for the support you’ve given me for the last year. I hope you will continue as I walk into this next chapter.

Raindrop Tales and Tokyo ♥ Story Updates!

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Tokyo ♥ Story is coming back February 14th, just in time for Valentine’s Day (or singles reminder day, however you celebrate it ^^;;)! I just finished my last thumbnails for the first chapter and I am so excited to get to work on the pages! Get ready for a bumpy ride, because the course of true love… well, you know…

The comic, for the time being, will still remain on Tumblr, but I am in the process of switching everything over to its own site. Readers will know, I’ve always struggled with WordPress, and turning into a webcomic host is no different. But with time and (a lot) of patience, I’ll make it work!

(pssst…. I may also be working on a new format for this site, but I’m not even going to consider switching everything over until the webcomic is running smoothly on its own. )

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In other news, Raindrop Tales: GPM Meets Mizu-chan is currently being featured on NASA’s website to coincide with the release of a (very cool looking, if I may so) trailer for the comic.

If you want to read the comic in full, you can read it here!

It’s almost been a year since I started the thumbnails for that comic, and wow that’s kind of crazy that time has gone by so quickly! If you’re interested in learning more about the process of how the comic was produced, the team has put together a really nice article talking about how the comic was made from start to finish–and yes, my blatherings are in the article too– where I explain my process, starting from thumbnails all the way to coloring and lettering. Go check it out!

I’ve had a few people asking me where they can get copies of the comic, which is really humbling and awesome that people want to own a physical copy of the comic. However, it was created for educational purposes, so the printed versions are only available to schools. The good news is you can read it online, and I promise it’s just as awesome that way. Not to mention, it’s also available as a PDF on the site as well.

I may have some further comic announcements coming soon, but right now I can’t say much more right now! My lips are sealed… for the moment.

 

In Which I Say, “Hello, it’s me” and a Year In Review

The end of the year seemed to come in a flash! It seems like it was just last week that I was at SPX and launching TS, and now it’s the end of the year! It’s crazy! Of course, health problems and a bunch of work will make the time flash away like that. October and November were terrible for me, to the point that I had to put the webcomic on hold until I got a better hold of my health. That finally obtained, TS will start up again in the new year. I was going to have it start again in January, but because I really want to have a strong return (not to mention a good backlog if this happens again), it will be coming back on Valentine’s Day because I am a huge sap like that.

imageI was looking back at my post from the beginning of this year, and I almost laughed, because I was still marveling that I finally had my art studio set up, but there were still things I wanted to adjust in it. Like those curtains! but it pretty much looks the same today as it did then, except with more paper clutter and various projects in process spread everywhere. And those curtains are still there. But even more hilarious was at this point, I still didn’t know for sure if I was going all of this in vain or not. But, this year I had my comic debut and everything about that is still super surreal. I hold the physical copies in my hand, and just stare, thinking “I made this. You made this, Aja. And it was during one of the hardest times of your life. You can do anything from here!”

While I didn’t talk about it much, I lost one of my grandmothers this time last year, and another in March. They were so supportive throughout my art education and ambitions, and my biggest cheerleaders throughout all of this. I’m sad they aren’t here, but I know they are proud of me. I just wish I could share this with them.

And now I’m crying.

Onto happier things! Or, more sobering things? End of the year means making a plan for the next. Whenever I make these art plans, I always feel bad, because I tend not to follow them, as something unexpected gets thrown in my path. This year, I’m going to try my best to see these through. Some of these are going to get very business-y and may seem a little dry, but I’m trying to shift to working on art full-time, so that means I have to put a lot of work in behind the scenes. I love creating, and I want to get to a place where I can get paid to do what I love– because isn’t that all what we want?

  1. Social Media Presence
    Facebook
    If you follow me on any social media, then you know I’ve been leaning towards certain platforms this year. After closing my personal Facebook account completely, I established a fan page instead, which goes really neglected right now, save for the updates I do here, which automatically are sent there. This is something I need to work on in the new year, somehow. Facebook still gives me a headache, but it’s hard to deny that a lot of traffic I get to my portfolio is from there. Which means actually putting effort in to keeping it updated. And it also means I may have to reopen a personal account, if only for upkeep purposes. It’s a slippery slope, and I am wary about it.

    InstagramIMG_3183
    Instagram was a surprise this year. I started an account late last year, because so many artists I like also had accounts– but mine has been a joy to keep. It makes it so easy to take progress pictures and share them with people. I love looking at the progress of other artists, as you get a little peak into their process, and I like to share mine to show people how much work goes into my illustrations (see any watercolor painting I’ve ever done haha) I really love taking pictures for it. While the platform can get a bit spammy, I enjoy it because it’s more picture heavy, like Tumblr used to be. I’ll be focusing more on Instagram in the new year, even more so than I am now. I’m going to try to experiment a bit with posting schedules (is posting every day too much? twice a week?)

    Twitter
    Ever the Twitter addict, I’ve managed to double my followers this year– and while a handful of them are book bots, most of them are actual people who converse with me. I met so many amazing people this year because of Twitter, and I’m so thankful for it. It’s connected me to other comic artists, lost classmates, and friends in Japan. While people look at me strange when I tell them I’m not on Facebook, Twitter has more than filled that void of communication for me.

    Tumblr
    I don’t know if it’s that the honeymoon is over, or that I won’t allow myself to get lost on that site for hours at a time anymore, because it’s a huge time suck, and I have so many other time sucks in my life, but I haven’t been using Tumblr as much anymore. Right now TS is hosted on Tumblr, but I am in the process of shifting that over to WordPress, as soon as I have a week to scream at my screen about how none of the css and html makes any sense. I still go over to Tumblr and play for an hour or so– I use it a lot for clothing ideas, art inspiration, you know all the things you are supposed to use Pintrest for, but I just haven’t found myself posting much on it anymore. I may need to give it another shot in the new year, as it is a great platform, but it just takes so much of a time investment.

    This Blog
    I know I was really really slack in my updates this year. This comes from no longer having a day job where I have loads of free time to brainstorm ideas to write about. But I know I’ve been neglectful of this blog this year, and I need to rectify that. I’m playing with ideas of monthly entries of a running theme. Like watch a movie once a month, review the storytelling elements; read a comic, review it; buy art supplies, review it. Basically reviewing things. I haven’t decided if this is something I want to put here or not, mainly because I’m not sure if people would want to read it or not. The art supplies, I know people would be interested in, as I try out so many things– but the others? Is there interest?

  2. Working on Tokyo ♥ Story and upping my page count
    A lot of my focus will be here. For the first quarter, the comic will be having monthly updates until a sufficient backlog is established. You know, follow all of that webcomic advice you got before you started, Aja? Launching the webcomic was a scary step for me, because I really wasn’t ready to launch it, but I couldn’t bring the book to SPX and then say “okay now wait three months before you get the next page,” but that’s what ended up happening anyway due to my health problems, so I kind of shot myself in the foot there. 100% my fault, and I need to resolve that. Along with pages, I want to get new illustrations and new character studies done for the series, because right now I am working off of designs that are six years old, that I’ll update in a very quick pencil sketch. I need to give this series the time and focus I should be.
  3. Working on Portfolio Illustrationsreyreyrey
    As crazy as it sounds, I do get burnt out with doing comic pages sometimes. When that happens, I need to not just step back from everything for days on end, and instead focus on other things. Like new illustrations. I had a blast this Inktober, even though I didn’t do all 31 days, I tried my best, and really pushed myself in inking and coloring styles. I need to push myself more like that. If that means picking a theme and going with it, like I did with Inktober, then that’s what I need to do.
  4. Learning
    This year I’m also going to make sure that I take time out every week and invest some time into learning and trying to up my technique. Watching tutorials is all well and good, but what I really need to do is take that knowledge and start applying it. I think it’s also time to go through the Loomis books again and work from there. My figure drawing has been lacking lately– like a lot, and I need to work on that. Loomis has always helped in that regard. And if I can tie in some of this work with getting some portfolio illustrations done, even better! I need to play more, to experiment more, and thus learn more.
  5. Shorts
    And to stack further work on top of my shoulders, I would like to finish two more comic shorts in 2016. Not super long stories, but stories no longer than 10 pages or so. I’ve always struggled with telling stories in short form, and that’s something I want to get better at. This does not include the Dragon Age parody comics I’ve talked about for the last year, that I have outlined, but done nothing with =_=

So much for keeping things simple! But they are goals, not things set in stone. I didn’t know I’d be working half a year on a comic last year at this time, and I’m not going to pass up an opportunity if it presents itself again. Basically, next year I want to strive to continue to create and start pushing myself out of my comfort levels. Wow, there you go, all summed up in one sentence.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

 

 

 

In Which I Explain Where I Have Been

aprilprev久しぶり! You may have thought that I fell into a ditch somewhere, or just stopped updating my blog entirely? Or that I had been entirely consumed by Dragon Age: Inquisition? And you’d be partially right? There was no ditch, yes I did play a lot of DAI but I finished my (second) play-through, and I am updating now, so let’s just skip straight to the excuses right? Or the non-excuses, as it were? (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ 

 

If you follow me on Twitter, then this big news isn’t anything new to you, but– when I came home I was contacted by NASA to work on a comic project with them about the GPM. Yes, NASA. It took a few months to get everything up and running, but I’ve spent the last month working on comic pages for NASA.

Just let that sink in there. I know it still hasn’t for me!

Cue obligatory statement of my opinions being my own, and how I do not represent the views or opinions of NASA.

This week, I finished up my penciled pages and sent them off for approval. Once everything is OKed, I’ll be sharing with you all my progress as my pages go from pencils, to inks, to colors. It’s all quite exciting! Although that means you all will see how messy my pencils are. It’s shameful, really. I have to ink my own things, because I could not ask someone to make heads or tails of all my different colors of pencil marking scribbles.

 

I’ve been meaning to post the news about this sooner, but there’s been so much work with getting these pages done, there just has not been any extra time for me to also update on the blog. But, if you are interested, I’ve been posting teasers of my pencils on Twitter and Instagram.

When I know the details of when and how the comic will be available, you all will be the first to know!

 

In other exciting news, I will also be having a table at SPX! After applying to several conventions this year, and consistently being put on wait lists, I was convinced that I would just not be at any cons this year, but SURPRISE! I was one of the lucky ones who was chosen for a table at SPX. So if you are local to Maryland, or aren’t and you are coming to the show anyway, please come see me! I’ll have half a table and will hopefully be watercoloring up a storm! This will be my first indie convention, as all my previous experience has been at been at anime conventions, and even those I haven’t been to in four years, so this is going to be an interesting experience! I’ll have a new comic short premiere there, which will serve as a teaser for my webcomic starting sometime late this year/early next year.

This weekend I’ll be making the final decision on which story to go with– as I have been working on two completely different stories in my downtime for the last few months. Will it be the fantasy epic? Or the shoujo romance? I’m not sure yet! I’ve wanted to do both stories for so long, it’s hard to choose!

 

And tomorrow Age of Ultron comes out, and I know my need to draw Avengers will be strong, but I have to work on pages! Must resist! o(╥﹏╥)o

Finding Your Dream

Should you base your dreams around what you wanted to be when you are eight? Yeah, probably not. Some kids want to be strange things when they are eight. Like aeroplanes. But there are people who find their passions when they are young and just stick to them. I wanted to be a comic artist. Yes, even since then. I was big time into Bone and Garfield when I was eight. I even drew my own comic strips (which my mom has hidden somewhere, despite my many calls for her to burn them). I’ve tried to distract myself from it numerous times. In high school, I just wanted to be an illustrator. I used to paint epic…ly horrible watercolors trying to learn the techniques of CLAMP and Takeuchi Naoko. My art teachers, bless them, saw potential in me and showed me as much as they could and gave me great opportunities within the community to showcase my stuff. At the same time, my parents convinced me that while sure art’s great, I would never make money (my dad was an artist, and only made money once he started goldsmithing)– so why don’t I take that writing flar and just study English? Which I did. I wrote my butt off, taking creative writing courses, and even majored in Shakespeare for a few semesters at my local college. But art was always there, in the back of my mind. I wanted to draw. I wanted to tell stories. Why couldn’t I do both?

Comics seemed the most natural decision when I finally let myself make it.

In order for this to make sense, I guess I should jump back like… 8 years. Back in the ripe year of 2006, I made my first trip to Japan with my two besties, Z and A. A used to live in Kyoto, and acted as our guide as we swept through Tokyo and Kyoto at a whirlwind pace, having the best adventures that we still tell to people about to this day. However, right before our trip, I was waiting to hear back from the two colleges that I applied to: SCAD and UMD. I applied to UMD with the intentions to enroll in their East Asian studies program (what was expected of me) and SCAD to go pursue my love of art and comics (what I wanted).

The trip was amazing. We saw so many things, ate so many things, and bought soooo many things. It was my first time abroad and it was eye-opening. Japan was so different, yet so the same. It was everything I expected, and yet in no way as I expected. At that time, my love for anime and manga was weigning, but it was still there– I wasn’t just grabbing onto any new series out there (something that I thought was a temporary thing, but little did I know…!), but I still loved the atmosphere of Japan. Going to Japan had been my dream throughout middle and high school, and then I was LIVING IT. It was amazing!

Upon coming back from Japan, I learned that I was accepted to both schools. And then I had to make a choice. It wasn’t a matter of money, because with scholarships and the like, both schools would have ended up costing me the same, and I would have to pay the rest in loans anyway. Now fresh from this trip, you would think that I just jumped in and went “WOOO! UMD!! I’M GOING TO LEARN ALL THE JAPANESE!” but I didn’t. That trip opened my eyes to a lot of things. 1) My time in Japan made me realize that while learning a language in a classroom was great and all, I had more growth in that area while in the country, than I had when studying on my own from books and audio lessons for like 5+ years. 2) However, what I had studied HAD been useful, so if I continued on my own, and tried to push myself harder in my studies, I could continue to learn the language without the need for classes. 3) Even if I mastered Japanese, living there permanently would not be something I could do. My family priorities are too strong to move away forever.

So, after a long discussion with my parents, we all came to the same conclusion. Art was something I really wanted ever since I was very young. I had the talent and drive, but I needed more training. I went to SCAD. Two and a half years later, got my degree in comics (went to Japan again as part of an exchange), moved back home and… went back to work for the same company I worked for before I left for college.

In my defence, I graduated in the Spring of 2009… NOT the best time to be entering the art job market. I did, however, continue to do comics on the side, when I could. I loved it so much, but my day job was draining me so much, I felt less and less inclined to work on comics in my downtime. It finally came to an apex in 2011, and I decided to take a shot in the dark and go for a job in Japan. If anything, for a change in perspective in my life, a jumpstart. And boy, was it one.

Now that I have been here for almost two years, and I’ve had a great time, I’m looking forward to the future again, returning home. And in my return, I want to hit the ground running. Comics. Comics. Comics. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this time, it’s that I find an inner peace while I am working on comics, no matter how much I bitch and moan about inking and thumbnailing (which I do… a lot).

I’m tired of consuming, I want to produce.

I will not allow myself to go home and be comforted once again by the mundane.

I will struggle, and it will SUCK, but I need to do this. I feel it in my bones.

This is my dream.