Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hot Town. Summer in the City.

I've spent the last 3 days moving into a new apartment.

It's a wonder I've had the energy to do anything creative tonight. The heat is ridiculous right now. Midway through the third day of moving, I realized that I wasn't sweating. My skin was just crying.

Have you ever been in the middle of doing something that required both hands and, without warning, one of your sweat beads just decides to -BOOM- fly maverick and forge a new path right into your eye?

But even before it makes contact with your eye, there's an entire series of split-second events that have to take place. Immediately, there's the realization that you're dealing with rogue sweat, because you can physically feel - on your forehead - where it's jumped out of its preordained lane and started dive bombing towards your eyelid. So you go into this defense mode with what tools you have available. And there in the middle of the second flight of stairs, with your father's 1964 antique dresser hanging in the balance, you begin doing that upward-blow-from-the-lower-lip thing that 14-year old girls do to fix their bangs. And you don't just puff a few breaths out with the half-hearted hope that you can deviate the sweat's warpath. You exhale as if you're trying to start a hurricane in the stairwell. You're blowing so hard, you wouldn't be surprised if you saw your soul fly out of your mouth. But since you're lips seem to be sweating too, you just start spraying your own cheek with spit in hopes that some saliva-shrapnel will counter-attack the sweat bead.

Doesn't matter though. Because you can't get the trajectory of the exhale right. So you launch into Plan B, and start shaking your head back and forth like a child who doesn't want to eat their carrots. And while you're exorcising yourself, the guy helping you move offers up the astute observation, "Sweat in your eye?" But he really doesn't care. He's just enjoying watching you. Absolutely. Lose. Your. Mind.

Plan B is a failure by all rights, so you stop, because the blood rushing to your head is an affirmation that you failed to hydrate properly this morning. So, still gripping the furniture with what strength you have left, you offer up some gut-wrenching groan of helplessness to the heavens as you take it right in the eye...like a chump. And since your dad's dresser was fashioned from a petrified tree that was actually planted in 1864, the option to lay it down and wipe your eye is out of the question...unless you want to watch your entire back literally pop off your body like, "It's been real. But I'm out." So, you end up cyclopsing it all the way to the Uhaul; one eye clamped shut, rocking that stupid facial contortion that resembles a painful half-grin. You look like the Penguin. And your eye is actually dissolving inside the socket. And you really didn't even want this dresser in the first place, but your mom said that "it matches the other furniture" and it just wasn't worth the debate.

So, rounding out the theme of villainous heat, I present to you Aiden Flint - the essential baddy of our story. Yes, he's a match in a business suit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sweeping the Public.

So, for my first official update since going public, here's Gumshoe and Jimmy Lint - two officers from the story who play vital roles in the apprehension of our villain. Soon, I will be adding a character page to give everyone some sort of an idea as to who's who in this whole thing.

Jointly, I think a celebration is definitely in order.

Only a couple days after my public commitment on Facebook to make this graphic novel a reality, over 100 people have already been swept into my dustpan of followers. This is truly flattering, and quite a surprise to be honest. Just to know that there's even a remote interest by anyone to see this book happen is a wonderful feeling.

The launch of this project came at the hands of a very nervous, and intimidated artist. Committing myself to something like this is very different than anything I've ever done before. The past month has been spent prepping for when I actually do begin laying down pages for the final product (my aim is to complete page 1 on July 1st). And I think I was reluctant to release an idea into the world that hadn't fully matured in its flavor yet. Right now, everything is very much under construction. The blog isn't finished. The art isn't finished. This sentence isn't fini.

Don't worry! The story is complete. But all of the required strokes to paint that picture are still being cast. All of that to say it's a little scary to present this to everyone, asking for the trust that it will see the light of day.

But it's all so groovy, because I'm jazzed about this whole thing, baby. And I think pairing that with your accountability, support, and encouragement are going to be invaluable factors in the development of this book.

These guys here look pretty jazzed, too.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inking Out Loud...

I put myself into a quandary today.

From left to right - 1. Sketch. 2. Sketch, hand inked. 3. Sketch, completely digitally inked.

Now, the spot blacks and textures in the center frame are simply copied over from the third one. I didn't clean up any line weight issues, etc. I scanned it in, and left it at that. Zoomed in at 100%, it looks like crap. All of the imperfections of the paper can be seen (which some might argue is charming and a welcomed tactile attribute). The inconsistencies with my technique are brought to the light. And it's just all around unappealing to me. But then, not hand inking for almost a year tends to yield these types of results on the first try...

On the other hand, the digitally inked version is clean and crisp. Granted, it's also finished. While the middle frame definitely feels like it came from a hand, the third one almost has hints of a manga style. Perhaps that's from the toning, and how I chose to use the texture. Not sure.

Regardless, the story is set in a place called "Basement City." There's nothing clean about that.

However, the other thing that needs to be remembered is that these pages won't be presented to the world at 100% magnification. They'll be on 6x10 (roughly) pages. And images tighten up when they're shrunk down. So that's also something to take into account...

Not completely sold on one or the other. And there's no doubt that they'll marry somewhere along the process. The question isn't a matter of whether a digital brush will touch my book. The question is of balance, and what exactly I'm looking to accomplish with my weapon of choice.

What you're looking at here (left to right) is a couple more inking tests and the original, undoctored ink of the top image. The sketches on the left were mostly done with micron pens, which lend a little more control to line placement. I like the voice of the brush, but I also like the precision of the pen. Once again, this all comes down to what I'm trying to execute in the final product. Perhaps the inking will be a panel-to-panel decision (brush here, digital there, micron over yonder), based on composition and such. Hm. It all remains to be seen...

Also, I think it's important for an artist to present his imperfections to the world from time to time. It keeps us accountable.

And it makes us feel unashamed of words like "yonder."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We on the Same Page?

More process than pomp today!

I love writing dialogue. I think I have a long way to go, as far as balancing story structure and not getting lost in the fun things I want characters to say in my stories. But I've always enjoyed giving characters a voice.

I think the best dialogue has the ability to simultaneously move the story forward, while remaining true to the personality of the character that's delivering the lines. For instance, a backwoods redneck might say, "Dang. Looks like 'em martians were bent on wipin' us all out from the get-go." Whereas, a 13-year old boy might say, "Holy cow! All the humans are about to get destroyed and - oh man! Does that mean no more of Mr. Bellward's math class?"

Both statements convey the same idea - aliens are about to destroy Earth. But it's seen through the eyes of two different characters. I think it's near impossible for an artist to really disconnect their own voice from their characters or, even further, not use their characters as a mouthpiece for their own thoughts and convictions. In Dust Bunny, I feel like the ideas are a little more under the radar. I might be wrong, and that'll be for each reader to decide on their own. But all in all, I've just really enjoyed assigning a tone to each one of these characters.

That would explain today's post. Writing dialogue is fun, but I have to keep myself in check. I'm not writing a screenplay. I'm writing a graphic novel, which means the words are seen and not heard; the words will, in fact, be a part of a page's layout and design. There will be times where the words are simply more important than the art and I'll have to tip the balance in favor of whatever pushes the story along smoother. If I do my job right, the reader won't be able to tell where I compromised. That's another big challenge - making sure it all "dovetails" together. Of course, it won't be a constant battle (once again, hooray for pre-production), but those aesthetic spats will arise. This is why I took today and visited two of my more word-heavy pages. I wanted to get an idea of how they might work on paper. I even printed them out to scale, simply to get a better idea of what the final product might look like.

And don't worry, the 2 pages above aren't consecutive, so it's ok if the dialogue makes about as much sense as a diet coke.

Check out those real life dust bunnies under the couch...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Come on, baby. Do the logo motion.

One of the really enjoyable tasks I've taken on for this book has been to make the world of Basement City seem as established as possible. In a graphic novel, or any other fictitious non-referential narrative, the storyteller gets one shot to really convey everything necessary to convince the reader that (real or not), this world exists in some capacity. And readers believe it based only on what they're handed.

If there's one thing that our world is filled with, it's corporate agenda. It's everywhere. It's in the 3 stripes on my shoes. It's on the styrofoam cup I'm drinking out of. It's in the computer I'm using to type this out right now. Are these things bad? I don't think so; not inherently. Could we survive without them? Yep. We did, at one point. But often times "back to the basics" is too easily equated with "primitive." So, whether we could survive or not is no longer a relevant question. In reality, there is no question at all. We will only ever move forward in corporate growth. It's not a platform to preach about, or against. It's just how it is. Unfortunately, and all too often, power is abused.

That being said, my story may dabble in those themes a little bit - more on the darker side of what can be done when an organized power trumps ethics. Nothing new, but very much relevant to the world we live in. And if you think otherwise, next time you feel like you were screwed over by a mechanic, your internet service provider, or the power company...call them up with all of your heartfelt concerns and see how far it gets you. We've all been there. By the way, big shout out to Sallie Mae! I hope we get to meet some day, so that I can buy you a drink on that dime I borrowed from you...which later became a quarter when you asked for it back.

And that rant brings me to the brief explanation of the above image. What's a corporate world without a couple of corporate logos? This logo is actually very pertinent to a major variable in the story. Without getting too far into it, the company behind this logo (The Skyliner Intiative) is where the novel begins and ultimately ends: with the lining of the sky. "The lining of the sky? What, Brett?" Don't worry, purchasing the book when it's complete will answer everything.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ain't No Potty Like a West Coast Potty...

This was a promo piece I put together for the novel a week or so ago. I like. I like it a lot, actually. But I don't love it. Any artist will nitpick their own work until there isn't any more nit to pick. Not even sure what a nit is, but apparently, if you pick enough of it you can either perfect what you're doing or completely ruin it. It's a fine line. And it probably got that fine by someone nitpicking it from its original thickness. There's an inking joke in there somewhere, but I digress...

This illo may warrant a revisit later. But for the most part, I think this really encompasses what this character is supposed to represent in the story. He's one of my favorites in the book, actually.

There are two other comedians that flank him. Maybe I'll do a triptych of "cheap flyers" like this one to showcase each one of them. We'll see. Hope you like!

Sneaky Peeks!

I just recently surpassed the 100 page mark in the pre-production phase of Dust Bunny! And I'm really starting to feel it - both the excitement, and the energy that doing over 100 pages of thumbnails can drain from someone.

Of course, this is the most rigorous part; it's when the story, the script, the layout, the pre-planning, the re-pre-planning, the additions, subtractions...all of it...comes together to really make the story what it's going to be. Once you jump into the actual pages, if you've planned ahead well enough, you should really just be in cruise control at that point, completely focusing on making the pages look awesome. The last thing you want to realize when you're halfway into an illustration is "Oh dang...I forgot about -----!" Pre-production can make or break a project.

I've spent almost a full month or more doing nothing but character sketches (rough and slightly more polished), scripting, and thumbnailing. My projected "launch date" for this novel is July 1st. That's when I want to be able to sit down and crank out the very first page, from pencils to inks to finalizing. A page a day - that's my goal.

So, what you're looking at above is a screen shot of the Dust Bunny Production Book in its beginning stages (that's right, I'm putting together a fully comprehensive visual journal of the development of my first graphic novel), and thumbnails for pages 21-23. So far, everything is looking good! I can't wait to jump into these pages and really start splashing some ink around! Enjoy!