So many things.

So watching a blinking cursor doesn’t get a blog entry written. If it did, I would have so many missing blog entries written.

It’s been six months since my last blog entry, and so much has happened, and yet so little?

I’ve worked through a tremendous art block, worked on pages like a madwoman, gotten incredibly sick, re-injured myself, and I could go on and on. Like I said, a lot.

But instead of cramming everything into one blog entry, I’m going to try to spread things out a little bit so I have, you know, other blog entries to write in the next coming weeks.

 

So how did you break out of your art block?

In some ways, I’m still kind of in it if I’m going to be honest. But I stumbled upon Juicy Ink’s 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge (which you can watch in all one convenient playlist here) just as she started it, and went through the journey with her, and realized 1) I too have not been giving my sketchbook the attention it needed, 2) I haven’t played with any new techniques in quite a while, 3) I was going a little crazy constantly working in black and white and I desperately needed to play with some color 4) If I didn’t start to try to break this block, I would be SOL when it came to summer convention time (which *cough cough* is coming up very quickly on my heels, compounding the pressure to produce things, making the block all the worse).

anatomy001Because I was struggling with some anatomy on the pages of TS, I decided to focus on that to begin with. Most mornings for the last two months, I’ve spent around half an hour doing anatomy studies ranging from one to five minute sketches. But not without guidance. I’ve been re-reading the Loomis books in my spare time and taking notes. This has resulted in a 100 page sketchbook almost being filled in this time– which is something I haven’t been able to do since SCAD.

The massive improvement under these few weeks of dedication cannot even be expressed. But the more important part is that it allowed me to make some ugly drawings, which is something that I don’t normally do. I usually will abandon a drawing if things look wonky the instant it does, but I forced myself to at least finish it, and then identify what went wrong.

Things I learned:

  1. I draw heads small to over compensate my tendency to draw heads big when I’m working without a reference. This is something that I will never understand why I do, but I’m getting better at keeping the head size consistent with the rest of the body.
  2. gesturestudies001I draw too fast sometimes. I start to rely on what I know, and not what I’m observing. I used to be much better about this, but I think it’s because I have such a limited amount of time to work on things now, so I don’t want to waste time observing (perish the thought!) and that’s a really bad habit to get into– thus I’ve spent most of this time trying to get myself OUT of that habit. Because of my short time allowance for art, I also start to get impatient with anatomy studies after about 30 minutes. It’s staggering to think I used to take a two and a half hour class on it twice a week in college, and now here I am struggling to make it half an hour. Is it my attention span? Is it because I want to work on other things? When did doing such basic studies become so hard to do?
  3. My anatomy skills are even rustier than I thought, and I need to keep this up.

 

But that was just the beginning. Next, it was time to mix it up a bit– which I’ll talk about in my next entry.

 

Raindrop Tales and Tokyo ♥ Story Updates!

comicsblog

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. )

012
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!

 

 

 

SPX, Inktober, and Web Comics, OH MY!

Inktober Best Of

So much has been happening both in the professional and personal side of my life! It’s been bananas! After SPX, I took a much needed break, as my life since March has been comics and sickness, and that’s pretty much it. But then October started, and that means Inktober! I’m a bit behind on my days, but I’ve sworn to myself I’ll get 31 (non comic) ink drawings done, even if it leaks into November– which it is going to. My running list of completed illustrations can be seen here. Instead of floundering on what to draw each day this year, I decided on a theme of Dragon Age pairings, the usual and the unusual, and it’s been a joy to explore. While I’m not 100% satisfied on how all of them have come out, I want to make a collection of all of these when all is said and done, redo-ing the ones I’m not happy with. Not sure how it’ll be collected, but I’ll figure out something!

Oh, yeah, and SPX happened! There where so many of my old SCAD classmates, we had a mini SCAD SEQA reunion, and it was marvelous! I also got to finally meet so many people face to face, like Trungles, Paulina Ganucheau, Kevin Panetta, Kata Kane and S.M. Vidaurri. I also made a slew of new friends, like Gale Galligan, Rachel YoungNgozi Ukazu, Sarah Dill, Larry King, Kori Michele, Ray Nadine, and Denise Clamors— not to mention, I got to meet my personal hero Kate Beaton, and got to make my idiot of myself in front of her while babbling to her about how important her work is for me. Because it is so important. I got one of my books by her signed, and still grin whenever I see it on my bookshelf.

Sadly, everyone was busy, so I didn’t get to spend too much time with anyone! We all had our own tables to attend, so our conversations were just stolen free moments out of the weekend. I think next year, I’m going to head down a day early, even though it’s so close to where I live, if only to spend actual time with people and talk for more then ten minutes! Things went better than expected for me table wise. I didn’t have much to offer comics wise, but I did sell out of a few things. Next time, I’ll have more comics available! Also thank you to everyone who came over and talked Dragon Age to me, because yes I love being a DA geek, and can talk about it endlessly, as some people learned!

 

And now webcomic things!

ths

October 15th the official web launch of Tokyo Heart Story happened! You can finally read it on the internet with your very eyeballs. The comic will be updated bi-monthly, starting with a (very small) update this Sunday. I have one (hopefully) final medical procedure for the year tomorrow, so while I was hoping to have more pages done this Sunday, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this time. I will make up for it in later updates, I promise!

And finally, in other web comic news, the GPM comic is now up on the NASA website! Go take a gander at what I’ve been working on since March, and talking endlessly about! It’s an adorable comic, and I learned so much from it, it’s amazing! I also received some print copies of the comic, which holding in my hands feels so surreal. I worked so hard on those pages, and to see them so nicely printed and beautiful, it was just amazing.

CQRM4vMUwAEsUCX

It’s crazy that November is right around the corner, but here we are! I have so many things planned for the end and the beginning of the new year, I can’t wait to share it with all of you in the coming weeks. I felt like I have grown so much as a person and as an artist this year. I am still in a phase where I am not happy with my art, but that means I just have to keep pushing, right? ONWARD!

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…

IMG_2756

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.

IMG_2769

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!

 

ajaspx

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!