Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sorry, no comic tomorrow. I've been cleaning all weekend and making pierogis for the past two evenings to feed the family tomorrow. I'm bushed and my hands hurt. Since the page is partially done, it will likely be up before the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hi there! The comic will be up later tonight. Half my usual comic-making time has been consumed by Christmas-related madness. Can you believe that Christmas is a week away? I assure you it came as the greatest of surprises to me. And yet, it's on the same damn day EVERY YEAR.

This year, I'm dealing with it by faking my own death. Please don't tell anyone. IT WILL BE OUR SECRET. Wink wink.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Okay, this has just taken the #1 spot on my List of Things I Need to Own. It's an autonomous paintball turret! I don't know what nefarious use I'd put it to (apart from getting myself fired from my job) but it would be awesome to have one.

Also, it's interesting to note that walking through a field full of rabbits bears a disturbing resemblance to walking through a field full of crickets.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is perhaps not my best-written page ever, but at least I'm happy with the art.


Read Evil Diva! It's cute! (Stole the link from Josh Lesnick).

Also also:

Disapproving rabbits disapprove. This is why I've always liked rabbits so much. The attitude.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Drawing from Your Head

About once a year I get the urge to write a semi-helpful art essay for newer artists and post it to my dA journal. Since I now have a blargh and I need to keep it fed, I might as well repost it here.

Drawing from Your Head, or "Hey -- Why Doesn't This Look Like I Imagined It?"

So you're a newer artist and you're pretty good, as long as you've got a picture in front of you to copy from. And you have this COOL idea for a monster deer with stars shining through its hide and coral branches sprouting from its head instead of antlers. Unfortunately, you don't have a photo of one of those in front of you -- but you see the picture in your head SO CLEARLY and you're sure you can draw it! You get to scribbling away and the inevitable happens -- you draw something that doesn't look anything like you imagined it. You toss the picture into your wastebasket in disappointment and question your abilities. What's going on? All those other artists just sit there and knock out picture after perfect picture. Why not you?

First off, your brain is not a photo album. It's good at all sorts of clever tricks, including giving you the impression that you're imagining something solid while actually glossing over all sorts of details. Like, say you're dreaming that you just told the funniest joke in the world, and in your dream you're laughing like crazy. Then you wake up and you try to remember the joke and it's not all that funny. In fact, it's not funny at all. That's because your brain didn't produce a funny joke, it produced the feeling of something being funny. So when you look at that deer picture in your head, your brain might be producing the impression of "deer" and "coral", but it's not actually giving you anything real to work with.

So how do those other artists do it?

Most of them don't go around telling you "this isn't like I imagined it". And if they do, half the time you're not paying attention anyway. "This picture looks so good!" you think. "Who cares if it's not exactly how the artist imagined it?" That's an important point, though -- drawing from imagination and having it look like what you imagined is not automatic or natural for the vast majority of artists. You're trying to do something difficult, failing at it is not a sign that you should give up drawing forever.

Next, your brain is going to fail you unless you have a photographic memory. In order to draw something well, you need to know all the details of its appearance. When you imagine that deer's pose you need to know what shape its head is, how its legs attach to the body, how wide the coral branches are and how tall. You need to know how you're going to get that glow around its body. If you've developed an artist's eye for noticing and remembering details, you might be able to observe many of the things you need to in your mental image before it changes or fades away. If not, you're going to have to figure out all those details before you do the finished piece.

Of course, most of the time we don't actually know all the details and never did. If you've never spent much time looking at deer then your brain isn't going to know that a deer's head has such and such dimensions and such and such a shape. Just because you can imagine something doesn't mean you know anything about it. Imagine page 33 from the last novel you read. I bet you can see a page in your mind. Unless you happen to have a photographic memory or happened to memorize that book, you're not going to be able to read the words off that exact page merely because you can imagine it.

There is no shame in getting reference and looking things up. Newer artists hate to do this because they don't think they have to. More experienced artists know that if you don't put serious time into figuring out what things look like, you're likely to end up with dogs that look like goats. Newer artists think that means they don't have talent. Experienced artists know that if they don't want dogs that look like goats, and if they have to look at photos to achieve that then by God they're going to look at photos. Nobody knows whether you looked at a photo or not, unless you tell them. They only know whether your dog looks like a dog or not.

So: when you have a mental image, try to figure out what the important bits are (deer in a certain pose, stars, coral, night sky, etc.) Then plan your drawing out. Instead of trying to use that mental image as a photo to copy from, use it as inspiration. Think about the basics of art. Is there a background behind the deer? Rather than trying to copy it out of your head, use your knowledge of perspective to set it up. Draw out a few different, simple versions of the image. Would it be better if you were looking up at the deer from below or straight on? Should it be framed by trees? After you've decided on the basic composition, look for reference. Do some studies of deer and coral. Work out some colour schemes. When you feel ready, do up a composite and if you like how it looks then do a finished image.

It sounds like a lot more work than just closing your eyes and scribbling, but this is the way many (if not most) artists work. Just like most people will write better essays if they research the topic and write an outline first, so most people will draw a better picture if they plan it out first. And when you're done it might not look *exactly* what it looked like in your head, but you will have done everything you can in order to make the best picture you can. A good artist might actually make a *better* picture by planning it out first. They might decide that their mental image of a pose was good but the lighting and colours were boring. In planning things out, they might hit on a colour combination they like much better, or decide that giraffes are cooler than deer, or whatever.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Welp, the comic is up. My work here is done. Until next week.

Hey. Hey YOU. Want to waste way too much time? Try this interactive text game called Violet. Don't tell me how you solved it, I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the Ethernet cable.

Also, if you have a few bucks to burn, go check out Historyonics, a comic anthology by some Vancouver-area artists. It's got a pretty good short story by Jonathon Dalton and something by the fabulous Steve LeCouilliard, who does Much the Miller's Son but doesn't seem to have a proper website. You can read Much the Miller's Son on his blog, assuming you can find the first comic.

In other news, my NaNoWriMo novel is terrible but almost done, and my house is no longer listing to the side although I sort-of miss the pitfalls in my front yard. I was hoping to turn them into a moat filled with piranhas. Special cold-weather piranhas that can survive the Edmonton winters.

Anyway. Off to do something gloriously unproductive!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Up to 31,000 words and got a comic out this week (and on time, yet! Go me!) I'm having some plotting problems with the book. Anyone know of an easy way to cure fish-zombie poison that can be obtained in the middle of nowhere? Or should I just let everyone die?

And because everyone needs to take the occasional break and make fun of some terrible things, here's Photoshop Disasters and Cake Wrecks, dedicated to exposing terrible professional photoshopping and caking (respectively). Read through the archives, some of this stuff is hilarious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Currently re-reading The Malazan Book of the Fallen while I'm waiting for the new Dresden Files book to come out in paperback. Last time my interest petered out somewhere around Midnight Tides (Book 5), but going back through Deadhouse Gates (Book 2), I have to say that I had completely forgotten how great a writer Erikson is. Also, Iskral Pust rules.

I think I lose steam through all these huge series because as great as a truly epic story is, there are often just too many characters to keep track of. You just manage to get interested in one group when BAM! you're in another scene with a completely different group of people. Once there are enough such groups, you start forgetting what these people were doing last and why you were interested in that in the first place.

Otherwise, this has been stuck in my head since the weekend. It's two years old so I'm sure everyone's seen it, but if I have to live with it, then I might as well inflict it on anyone else who hasn't been infected yet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaNo is clipping along, I'm a little over halfway done. In the past few thousand words, I burned down an inn and poisoned a couple caravan guards. Lest you think that I'm using up precious comicking time, I actually do most of my writing at work, where typing doesn't cause any comment but whipping out a tablet probably would.

For the interested, here's another good writing resource for those of us of the Spec Fiction persuasion, The SFWA Resources List.

And here's a few things for the artists:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some cool stuff for writers I've come across in the past few days:

And just because I think this is great, here's the article on Otto the Octopus for those who didn't see this on Twitter or Facebook (via Pharyngula).

Friday, November 7, 2008

I've never been much for random socializing, but I thought I'd try putting up a Skulking Ninja blog. It'll include both the apologies for late comics that you know and love, as well as other things that I think should go in a blog, like rants about Kids Today and blurry pictures of the neighbours' cat.

But before I get on with that, and since this week's comic isn't late, I'll start with NaNoWriMo. Anyone else doing NaNo this year? I did it in 2005 and managed to squeeze out a terrible urban fantasy novel about loser vampires. This year I'm doing a sword 'n' sorcery fantasy. I started 5 days late and I'm keeping up with the comic as well so it's a ton of work, but it's a lot of fun. Masochistic, "oh gods, where's the plot going next?", "I suck at writing!" fun. If I survive this, next year I'm going to write a terrible bodice-ripper. With actual bodices getting ripped. I'm not sure anything risque will happen in it otherwise, but there will be pieces of bodice all over the place, let me tell you.

Also, I can't believe that it's taken me this long, but I finally read Code Name: Hunter, and the story's really quite good. If you enjoy urban fantasy, don't dislike furries (and if you don't and do, what are you doing here? Shoo! Shoo!) and haven't come here from there, you should check it out.

Last of all, I really enjoyed drawing those goofy faces in panel 5 this week. Oh, Castus. You have issues.