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

Rolling With the Punches

When talking to people about attempting to get work as an artist, there’s an aspect to it that really sucks– and that is the turn down. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a nicely worded email that keeps the door open for the future (the best kind!). Sometimes, it’s the shutdown email. And then there’s the worst of them all, the no reply– where you send in your stuff for something, and then you never ever hear back. Like your email or application was lost to the internet ether.

I’m here to tell you to not lose hope. Keep trying! But there comes a point when several “nos” will make you start to think there is something wrong with you, your art, or your approach.

The latter is the easiest to fix. When you send that email, fill in that application, or what have you, try to look at it with fresh eyes– or better yet, grab someone and get their opinion. It might have nothing to do with you or your art, but it could be that you are not giving a clear presentation.

If it isn’t your presentation, then it might just be one of the other two– and that’s when you have to start asking yourself some hard questions that not everyone wants to answer. If your art is not to snuff, then work on it. Do more! Level up yourself!

But don’t forget to keep on sending out those applications! Even if you are not sure your art is up to snuff– send in that application anyway. Who is it going to hurt? Be brave, send that application!

As in all things, it requires balance! It’s easy to focus too much on leveling up and never apply to anything or too much on sending out your work and never focus on bettering your art. Don’t lose balance. You can do both at the same time!

To Do My Dear

Last week I gave a general outline of my plans for the rest of the year, but as I’ve said time and time again, I do have the habit of putting the cart before the horse. So this week, I’m breaking down what steps I will take presently (the next two weeks or so ish).

  1. Make a patterned banner for Social Media things
  2. New icon for Social Media things
  3. Footer illustration
  4. Sketch out next illustration
  5. Do commission samples
  6. Open commissions
  7. New level sheet
  8. Reread previously written plot points for story I may start to work on
  9. Work on new outline of said story
  10. Finish cleaning out room
  11. Gather all art supplies to be moved into the studio

And that should keep me busy for the next few days. And I’m posting it up on here, as always, for accountability purposes. Keep the pressure on me, everyone! That way I’ll get this done and will be able to move onto the next!

Plans for the Rest of the Year

Sorry, but today won’t be an entry about how I’m having reverse culture shock and all of that. I’m sure that entry will be coming soon, but as I am writing this from the past, I have no idea how I will feel in the future. Instead, I’d like to take some time now, before my life becomes topsy-turvy again, and lay out some plans for the rest of the year. Yes, this is for accountability reasons as well, but also because you guys know I’m super open with what I am doing both on the art side and the promotion side.

 

  1. Set up the art studio
    This seems like a no brainer, and something that will get done quickly, right? I mean, I had one before I left Japan, right? Well, sort of. I had a tiny little corner of a room, where I had to stow supplies, reference, and my desk on top of each other. Now that I will actually have a studio, things will be a bit different. I’m not going to let myself buy too many things (namely because I have no money), but I have to get a new computer desk ASAP. The one I currently have has been falling apart for years, not to mention I’m not entirely sure I can get it into the art studio… anyway, before I can do any moving whatsoever, I have to first clean it out (it was an old storage room in the house, i.e. there’s a bunch of crap in it), paint it, and then set it up. That, hopefully, will be taken care of my first week back—with any luck, as this entry is posted, I will, in fact, be doing just that!
  2. Commissions
    Commissions will be opening super soon. For the time being, I’ll be relying on commissions to pay bills and buy food.
  3.  New paintings!
    Like, a lot. I’ve got thumbnails, I’ll have my paints back, it’s going to be great. I’m going to be trying some new techniques and there will be a lot of experimentation in the next month or so.
  4. The site
    Web maintenance and changing some things with the format are things I’ve been putting off, so I have probably weeks of fixes to look forward to in the future.
  5. YouTube
    I’ve been planning this for a super long time, but I will be going to YouTube! Well, I mean, I’m already there but I will finally start posting things. There will be process videos at first, but I am open to suggestions on what other videos people may want to see. I’m tempted to do a vlog of the days of setting up the studio, but it might be better not to distract myself while putting things together.
  6.  Mailers/New Business Cards/Social media/Self-Promotion
    While some might argue that should be the first step in my journey, and I have been working on it, I just feel I need to turn over some pieces in my portfolio before I can start sending things out. I’ve given myself a small window to produce some new work, and then I must start contacting Art Directors. It’s true that you never will be good enough, and that is partially holding me back—but when I look at my portfolio I see a lot of fanart, and not a lot of focus. I need to zone in on things, prove that I am awesome in them, and that will help me get a job than anything else I can do. So, yes, new work, then going to this step. Don’t put the cart before the horse, Aja.
  7. Convention Schedule for 2015
    I’ll be plotting and planning starting this month. I know I won’t get all the shows I apply to, so I need to have a bigger list then intended. It looks like I’ll be sticking to the East Coast for 2015. Maybe in 2016, California. My big pie in the sky is to go to a workshop for illustration and/or comics, and because of that, I need to save my pennies, and boost my portfolio.
  8. Play
    Play? What? Really? Yes, play. If having my Moleskine has taught me anything, it’s that I stopped playing in art at some point in my life. Was it in college? Was it before? I don’t know, but I need to allow myself to have fun, because in having fun, I start to discover things about my own art I never knew, and am much more open to experimentation.
  9. Comics
    I keep waffing back and forth how I’m going to return to working in the medium of comics. Should I do a one shot that’s got nothing to do with anything? Or a bio-comic about Japan things? Or just jump into the epic? Or do a one shot that is associated with the big epic and then move on to the epic? WHAT? At the moment, I’m still not sure. I’m hoping the 8 things above this will give me some clarity on where I should go first. Chances are, it will be a short first, so I can put that short together quickly and get it on the web, and build from there.