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?

 

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!

Drawing on the iPad, a year later

So about a year ago, I bought an iPad. Along with hoping for it to help me at work, I was planing to make the iPad my go to thing for drawing. Even after I got the ridiculously priced, Wacom “pen,” I thought with some practice, the iPad would be the best thing to draw with ever.

Yeah, no.

Here’s the biggest problem with it. The lack of a good tool. In order to save some money, I bought an iPad 2, not knowing there would be a lot of nice pressure sensitive add-ons that would be coming out last year for the iPad 3 and beyond. That sucked, as my biggest gripe with using the iPad for drawing is that there is no sensitivity– which yes, I knew going in, but when the option is there but I can’t get it, is frustrating to say the rest.

And then there’s the whole “pen” thing. The Wacom pen is awful. Any pen is awful with that sponge for a tip. It takes away all precision in a drawing. For Christmas this year, in another effort for me to not regret getting the iPad for drawing, I got the JotPro, which works much better, yes. But that tip is still frustrating. There is still a lack of precision, although that lack is a much smaller margin, I will admit. The JotPro has another downfall: the tapping. Drawing on the iPad, no matter how lightly you touch the screen, you hear the tap tap tap tap. And it will scratch scratch scratch your screen as well. Yes, I have a shield on it, but some of the scratches in the shield are so deep, I’m worried what the tablet’s face will look like when I take it off. I do like using the JotPro, but it’s not a replacement for the more traditional Intuos I have for my real computer. And seeing as the Intuos doesn’t have a screen, and that’s my biggest disconnect with the Intuos, the iPad has not warmed my heart.

Now this makes it sound like I hate my iPad, which is the exact opposite. It has been incredibly useful at work, and for working on this site in particular, thanks to the WP app. I’ve read dozens of books and comics on the iPad, and have lost many MANY games of Catan. It’s great as a computer on the go, especially when it comes to reading and writing.

But as an art tablet, it’s not there yet.

Happy Birthday!

happy-anniversaryAjamandtoast.net is officially one year old today! Wooo!

Although thinking about the fact that I’ve been using WordPress for a full year now and I’m only just now understanding just how powerful it is, and what you can do with it, kind of boggles my mind…

A lot has happened in the past year, both personally and artistically. I’ve remained in Japan, somehow overcoming both a Japanese Summer and Winter (not easy feats!); completed two drawing boot-camps, so to speak, and am now treading a life-changing art challenge; finally learned to draw 100% digital on my tablet; made progress in developing my own style and my own sense of self in my art; made some kick-ass friends… it’s been great. I hope to continue to grow exponentially in the next year. The next few months will be perilous indeed, with me preparing to return to the states, and to bust into freelance illustration once I’m home–but I’m looking forward to the challenge. And of course, I fully intend to share the journey with you all. That’s the fun part, right?

Looking back on the past year’s entries, let me know what you’ve liked, what you haven’t liked, what you want to see more of, or just what you want to see in general. My ears are open. (Ew, that sounds gross…)

It’s warming to my heart to see all of the recent support coming in along with the illoLifeRPG project. I love all of you! Let’s have an awesome second year together! Look forward to some facelifts, revamps, and more content than you can shake a stick at. (Why you would be wanting to be shaking a stick at content, is beyond me, but you know what I mean ^^;;)

THANK YOU EVERYONE!