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?

2015… i.e. the year I crash through everything

Happy new year everyone!! … three weeks later. So many things have happened in such a short time. My life has changed dramatically since December, because of losing a very loved family member. I’m still very sad about the loss, but if anything, it’s reminded me of just how much time we have on this earth, and that we need to make the most of it. It’s my goal this year to finally make that [perilless] jump into supporting myself completely with my art alone. I know it’s not going to happen in the next week, but it’s my goal to be doing it by the end of the year. Which means, kicking into high gear to produce things for the portfolio.

This site will also be moving in the future. Remember how ajamoore.com used to be a redirect to this site? Well that’s going to change within the next month or so– meaning ajamoore.com will be my main site, and ye olde ajamandtoast.net being a redirect. Hopefully, the switch will change without much notice. If you want to know when it happens, keep an eye on my twitter, since I am pretty much attached to it, and I’ll keep my feed updated when I do it. It also means if you have this blog bookmarked, you need to update it.

I’m in the process of rescanning some of the older pieces, and getting much higher res versions of my illustrations, which will take me a bit, and has to be snuck into illustration time and Dragon Age marathons. Because, priorities, right? Just kidding. I just finished Inquisition the other day, and restarted Origins, but I’m doing a much much slower playthrough, and worked out a deal with myself that for every two hours of illustration work I do, I get an hour of DA. It’s been working out pretty well, seeing as if I want to play, I have to work, so it’s incentive to get off my butt and draw!

 

Oh, and did I mention my studio is finally all finished?

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There’s still a few things here and there to fix (like the curtains…), but the majority is done! I am so happy and relieved to finally have this ready. It’s a great little room for me work in, and everything I need is at my fingertips, instead of spread out amongst a bunch of containers spread throughout the house. So much easier.

 

Here’s to the new year! May it be totally awesome and filled with new arts!

Blinded Steve

blinded but now I seeAnother secret project that I can now share! It’s that time of the year again for the Cap/Iron Man Big Bang, and instead of writing a story this year, I opted to do art for a story. The story was Blinded, But Now I See, which was a story about Cap going blind and having to cope with it.

As I read it, this idea of Steve with his eyes being replaced with torn paper, to represent his blindness, came to me, and I just rolled with it. Using actual torn paper, instead of trying to fake it, was essential– as when you fake that kind of rip, it looks awful. Ripping bristol paper just so it is the precise width was more difficult than you would think!

I used a different approach than normal for my paintings for this illustration. After the draft was approved by the author, I decided that I wanted to make this an inkwash, and attempt to do something with color (albeit lightly) in trying to emulate the style that Wylie Beckert does for her amazing graphite drawings.

My results were mixed. I went too dark with my washes, so I didn’t get the outcome I was hoping for, but there was an interesting texture created when I used the oil pastel brush in Photoshop. Wylie recently released a YouTube video of her process (which everyone should stop what they are doing and watch NOW), which gives me a better understanding on how she paints over grayscale stuff, and I will have to try it again in the near future.