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!

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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.

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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…

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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!

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

In Which There is An Age of Dragon

inquisitzcolor-1For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, or have had the displeasure of talking to me in the last… oh three months, then you are aware that I have become a tad obsessed with the video game series Dragon Age. It started with my bestie getting really excited about the release of Inquisition back in November, to which clueless me, was like “What’s Dragon Age?” and thus, the rabbit hole was opened and I  ended up marathoning all three games within a two month span. Yes, a two month span.

The nice thing about dumping all these hours into a game series, is it’s been really inspiring for me on the art and writing front, as I have become totally enraptured with the universe. I secretly want to become part of the BioWare development team for the fourth or fifth game, but haha yeah that will never happen, so I draw silly things that are fannish to fill my time or something. I dunno! Anyway, a few weeks ago, I threw up a request for Inquisitor screengrabs, and the same bestie was like “OH DO MINE!” so I broke out my Copics which have been long neglected and tries to get my stiff drawing muscles warm again. I’m not super happy with the outcome, and will have to do another one for her in the future. I tried using some “marker paper” by Strathmore, and it was a nightmare. It didn’t hold the ink, everything bled, and the linework transferred terribly. But it was a good experiment, I guess? I know not to use that paper for this kind of thing again.

 

My second experiment went much better:

 

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reference pic from Senshi Stock

 

My initial idea was to try the Copic markers on charcoal paper, but they bleed like a mo-fo on the paper. Then I remembered a set of charcoal colored pencils I picked up when I got home back in August. What proceeded was a risky experiment with the colored charcoal and very light shades of Warm Grey Copics, in an attempt to blend them together and give a kind of light touch to the drawing. I’m really happy with the outcome, and need to take the experimenting further, methinks. Maybe next time, with watercolors, or using very light shades of Copic markers.

I’m also trying to work on my inks, to get the delicate, yet energetic vibe my pencils have– because with the thick thinks I’ve been doing for the last few years has really started to bum me out. I really like my pencils, and then I ruin it with inks. When I watercolor, it doesn’t matter because I can use my pencils as linework, but Copics BLEED the lead like anything, so I need to figure out some way to approach linework when I intend to color with Copic markers. Right now I’m trying to use a much MUCH thinner pen then I have since before I started at SCAD, and trying to be as light as possible with it, instead of barring down like I do with my brush pens.

What do you think? Is this linework better than some of my previous inked sketches?