Page 16

January 17, 2012

It’s not even Monday but this page has been delayed so long waiting another week to update was out of the question. Perhaps it was a matter of not enough time put aside each week but I suspect I spent too long tinkering with puny details which ultimately don’t have much effect on the overall piece. I can’t promise I’ll meet weekly updates in future but I’ll be sure not to let my schedule slip this horrendously again.

Long wait aside, the page itself is pretty good by my standards, I tried some more adventurous stuff with the shadows/lighting and for the most part its been a success. The noir influence comes through pretty strong with this one – because of the fedora perhaps? – along with stylistic flourishes of a distinctly Risso and Miller nature. Introducing a key villain ‘Baby Face‘ here I wanted the luggage warehouse to reflect the character being introduced. The first panel features a lot of imposing machinery as an acknowledgement of his extreme cyborg enhancements, while the clutter dotted around perhaps hints at the deranged personality, additionally falling in line with the cyberpunk tendency for turbulent chaos concealed beneath ordered surfaces.

The cold colour scheme was intended to evoke a suitable cold mood while emphasising Baby Face’s complete lack of compassion for others, but looking now may have been a bit heavy. That said, I have a strong visual contrast in mind for the next page which should spice things up a little ;)

EDIT (20/1/2012):  I’ve tweaked the second panel’s colour and linework in response to some criticism on ComicFury to prevent it from being confusing. Hopefully an improvement!

Sasaki Redux

December 20, 2011

Well here you have it, Sasaki has literally become a ‘cyberpunk’. Continuing the direction I’ve been exploring in recent posts, this time around I’ve toned down the slobish aspects and tried to create something more distinct and vibrant, incorporating some of the cyberfashion I looked at last time for a stronger design.

The influence should be pretty evident from areas such as the cowl, straps and leggings, being taken from my previous research images or ones like them. I received a sizable criticism recently about making my characters overly functional in appearance, so here I tried to inject a little more fun into her look, reflecting what is largely a fun character. While being an agoraphobic oddball, Sasaki was also intended as an antidote to the largely serious, angsty cast; a slightly comical addition included to offset the inevitable misery and balance things out.

To summarise the problems with the old concepts: there’s a difference between a character who’s lazy and a lazy design.

The original concept was simultaneously bland and overly complicated, lacking a sense of coordination to the look. The VR helmet on the one hand had far too much going on, appearing bulky and impractical, especially by sci-fi standards. Areas such as the jumper and legs meanwhile lacked much in the way of distinctive features, resulting in an impression that’s both frustrating and forgettable to the casual reader. I’d intended her to look a bit of a mess, but the result is an artistic rather than intentional one.

The biggest change I’ve made is reducing the helmet to an implanted set of cyborg eyes. I’ve kept the spider-like arrangement but in retrospect it seemed strange I didn’t fit them into my cyborg scenario on a character who already has ‘modifications’ and never removes it throughout the script. The four cables running into the back of the hands have also notably been reduced to one, simpler but far more striking as a result.

I purposefully included colour in this design too as it struck me as an important aspect of the ‘cyber’ look. It falls into the orange/blue scheme that I’ve been using for much of the comic, though I’ve gone for a brighter look than usual to emphasise an exaggerated personality; there are still sharp blues representing the mechanical element encroaching on humanity but the orange sweater dominates Sasaki’s design, emphasising warmth and energy of the character. The dyed hair again draws upon the fashion influences and generally punk vibe,  but on an aesthetic level seemed a good way to make her more distinct.

As is becoming increasingly common, I drew over the basic sketch digitally for linework and colour. I process which I’m finding beneficial in some ways and problematic in others. The advantages are the ability to easily scrub out and redraw mistakes until I’m completely happy, while the final result is a lot sharper and easier to colour than my hand drawn efforts. The downside is that it can take a long time to complete art this way as the zoom tool often causes me to obsess over miniscule, barely visible details I’d never worry about in a pencil and pen drawing. Plus, spending all that time in front of a monitor can be a recipe for a killer headache. I’m enjoying the experimentation but I don’t think I’ve nailed down the definitive method just yet.

At any rate, overall I’m much, much happier with Sasaki’s new concept and while I’m not sure it will mesh perfectly with my existing pseudo 1940’s style, it’s better than sticking to a constrictive and frankly boring uniformity. I regret not being able to create a thorough multi angled study as with the original design, but with the tradeoff in time being colour and higher quality drawing I can hardly complain – as an experiment it feels like it’s been a success and what’s important now is getting back to the comic itself and applying the influence on a wider scale.

Page 15

December 12, 2011

I’m a little short on time here so I’m afraid this will have to be more succinct than usual.

The linework/ink for this page was applied digitally working over my pencil sketch as a basis, which was in turn based upon a photo I took of myself for reference (naturally with gender adjusted accordingly). I typically favour hand drawing my pages with only colour, text and arrangement being done in photo-paint afterwards but in this case I’m actually glad I deviated; I ended up redrawing Scratch’s pose repeatedly before getting it to a satisfactory standard. I’m not sure the perspective is implemented as effectively as it could have been, but the pose at least seems striking and believable.

Though I don’t tend to trust my own opinion it at least feels like one of the better pages I’ve made. Having a single larger panel allowed me to be a little more indulgent than usual, focusing on getting one image right rather than rushing through several – I doubt I’ll be doing many pages like this but it shows that with more time and care I can do better…

Page 14

December 5, 2011

As of now with this page I’ll be making updates on Mondays  or not at all. Ideally that will mean weekly updates though the main reason is to lock down a consistent release day which people can check in on – if I don’t have a page ready at the start of the week I’ll at least upload concept work to keep things rolling.

On the page itself; I’ve been straining the tension for a while here since – as I explained last time – the dramatic pause seemed right. Things get quite kinetic a few scenes on and the pace picks up considerably, so with that in mind a slightly slower (albeit tense) moment struck me as a suitable cushion to stop the follow-up feeling rushed. Quite obviously the next page is the “it’s behind you!” moment to break the aforementioned tension, something I considered having in the last panel of this one but seemed cramped and ineffective. Moving it a page ahead of the vocal shock may test reader patience a bit (sorry!) but it also makes the most of the intense atmosphere and should provide a stronger payoff.

Additionally, our mysterious stalker here is really the central protagonist. Curt serves as something of a sub-protagonist with his own important role in the plot but the real heart of the story lies with Scratch. Excluding the opening page this is her introduction not to mention the first meeting between these two characters. I won’t be making a habit of stretching thirty seconds over four pages – or I’ll be grey before I’m done – but with the rest of the graphic being fixed upon these two a little indulgence may be for the better.

Art wise I’ve tried to support the atmosphere with more close-ups than usual, plus the requisite noir shadowing. I did do more with colours here as the overpowering greens were in danger of becoming monotonous; note the slightly blue hue on Scratch’s prosthetics and the cyan highlights from the light source.  Essentially, I’m still experimenting a bit to find a mix I’m happy with, but hopefully it’s going in the right direction.

You may also have noted that I’ve used the new font here which appears to be a considerably improvement over the old one, it may be a little understated but I’ll take that over the EVERYONE’S SHOUTING look I had before. What I’ll be doing now is going back over the earlier pages and replacing the lettering accordingly, once that’s done I can reupload and should be set to startup a new archive on ComicPress!

It may take a couple of days but with that sorted out I should be all systems go again, stay tuned…

Page 13 + More Life Drawing!

November 20, 2011

This page pretty much continues in the stylised vein the last one did, so much of the composition and its colour choices are for the same reasons. However, as usual there are a few noteworthy additions and decisions.

The pace has slowed dramatically and what I’m covering here in three to four pages arguably could have been summarised in one, but still I feel it’s worth taking a pause here. The focus of this scene is upon two things: Curt’s rising fear of cyborgs and Scratch’s imposing, steely demeanour, both of which will be of increasing importance to the central theme of the narrative as it progresses. While previously there was a lot of information imparted through dialogue, here I want the visuals and mood to do all the talking for a moment.

Considering the technique itself; while I normally pencil and ink all my linework by hand I do clean it up digitally after scanning and occasionally correct mistakes, with the first panel here I tried something a little different as an experiment. Having penciled the panel in rough I scanned it in and worked over it in Photo-Paint, beginning with a purely black overlay set to 50% transparency and cutting out the highlighted areas. This wouldn’t have worked were it a well-lit scene featuring cross hatching rather than heavy shadow, but in this case the results weren’t half bad inadvertently having a slightly Geoff Grandfield quality. I’m not changing over to an entirely digital production process anytime soon, but I may well dabble in future.

My favourite panel is probably the fifth taken from POV, mainly for its simplicity. Being almost symmetrical with the shadowing connecting into a surreal whole it has a sort ink blotch feel slightly reminiscent of a Rorschach test card. There’s something surreal and unsettling about it which taps into exactly the kind of mood I want.  The weakest panel meanwhile is easily the last one. The way the light splashes across Curt’s chest turned out okay but the hands just look too small, even after I reworked them.

…And on the subject of weak anatomy, a spot of good news is that I’ve gotten back into life drawing this week!

Despite having the same model as last year the new classes are run quite differently; favouring a series of short three-minute poses alongside a longer one (above – I won’t post the quickies since they’d burn your eyes). Fast drawing is not one of my strengths, but for this very reason perhaps being forced to do so will prove good practice in the long run.

Regardless, it’s another step in the right direction to refine my technique and help reduce my anatomical embarrassments.