Raindrop Tales and Tokyo ♥ Story Updates!

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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. )

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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!

 

 

 

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

New Format!

14.06.13-001Hello and welcome from the past!

I am writing this in the past to tell the future that the site is back up and running! Break over, and things will get back to normal as usual on Sunday. If you’re reading this blog on the site, then you’ll notice that everything is different! If you’re reading on a RSS, then go to the site and look around! There is a spiffy new format which I just adore. I finally broke down and put some money into it, instead of torturing myself trying to get the WP code to do things myself.

Was it the lazy way? Maybe. Was it the efficient way? You bet. Because I can now stop wasting my time fooling with the WP code and get back to the important stuff, like creating new art. By this time, everything should be up and running perfectly, so take a look around the site. There’s no new art yet (sorry), but there is new organization, and some things that I have been meaning to put up, but had been waiting until a new format was finished (like the Western AU project and a page dedicated to illoLifeRPG). There are a few little behind the scenes things that need to be tended to, but that won’t impede on the site experience– and can be done in small  chunks (and might be held off until I am back in the States).

Speaking of which! June 6th was the official marker point for me having only two months left in Japan! Time has flown by, and as much as I am sad to go, I am so happy to be going home, I can’t even express it. To have a bed again. And air conditioning. And Sonic’s Cherry Limeades. Priorities man. Priorities. These last two months will be crazy, but I’m going to make it a priority to keep updating things on the blog, even if I have to write from the past again, like I am doing now. Also once I am back in the States, I’m going to be looking into a few affiliates programs, so fair warning that some small advertisements are coming. But like seriously small ones. I can’t stand lots of ads, so I wouldn’t ask my readers to stand them either. I’m also eying Patreon, but I do not think I am ready for that quite yet.

So, to review: New site; regular updates start up again on Sunday; I’ll be back in the States in August; I am a fool for Sonic Limeades; and I’m looking into affiliate programs.

Onward!!