Andy's Art and Whatever

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Formera Book 2 Finally Arrives!

Yes! It’s True! My books finally came today! The reason they were taking so long was just a simple error in the address. Yay! It’s here! And the book looks AWESOME!

I don’t know if Alterna is using a new printer or what, but this book just look so much better than the first book. The quality of the printing just feels better, and the fact that I colored the whole book in color and reduced it to b/w gives it a much richer feeling. There is a TINY bit of stretching on some pages due to the size format of the book, but it’s nothing that detracts from the story and only really noticeable to me (cuz I drew it and am picky about tiny things like that lol).

I’m so happy it finally arrived! I’ve re-read it several times today. I wrote the first book in a size that was not all that much smaller than what the actual print size was. As a result, you can notice a lot of mistakes and poorly drawn stuff in the first book (in my opinion). It’s a good rule of thumb to draw at about 120% larger than the actual print size. When the images are reduced, squiggly lines look smooth, detail blends together, and small imperfections disappear. It’s a trick all comic book artists live by.

For book 2 I started using larger paper, knowing that it would be reduced eventually. I also started using different sized pens. A .08 for the gutters, word balloons, and anything up close. A .05 for the main artwork and anything in medium focus. And a .03 for anything in the far background or to add detail. It’s such a simple thing, but it really paid off in the end.

I think this is, without a doubt, the most professional looking book I have ever done. Even the story flows better too. I took time to develop the characters more and to explain some of the plot. This slow down works in great contrast to the urgency of the ending and it makes the book just feel much more solid than the first book which (to me) felt far too rushed.

So I am very happy! Being able to see the book in print gives me insight into how to work on producing Book 3 and any other book I might want to make on my own. I can’t put it down! Gyaah!!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Comic Tricks I Live By

*Sorry, Another LONG Read*

Everyone has their own way of telling a story, and in comics there are literally an infinite variety of choices in telling your story. Over the years I have tried many different methods and techniques. Some worked for me, and some didn’t. So I decided to make a list of 10 rules that I try my best to follow whenever I write comics. Maybe in this way I can identify what I can do to improve, and possibly give you all some insight into my comic process.

1. Eyes and faces are the window into the soul. I try to put a lot of care in choosing the right facial expression for any given scene so that my characters feel more alive. I don’t like using “stock” expressions like they have in a lot of Japanese Anime, but they can be useful if used in moderation. This does, however, make me not focus on the rest of the bodies and as such my anatomy work is not as perfect as I’d like it to be.

2. This is probably the most important one. Stories are driven by characters, not ideas. In other words, you can have the most epic story in the world, but if the characters are wooden and unappealing, then everything else falls apart. Many a summer blockbuster movie has failed because of this problem. Too much emphasis on the glitz and glamour and not on the characters.

A helpful trick I have found is to give each character some random positive and negative qualities. These + and - traits help you predict how they’ll react to different situations and will allow them to sometimes make up their own minds rather than you forcing them to follow a set story. Always give your character 1 crazy trait about them, because everyone can relate to knowing/being someone with an irrational trait.

Example: A character who really loves cheese will react differently than one who once accidentally ate a moldy piece of cheese. Already in your minds eye you can imagine how each one would react if someone handed them a huge hunk of cheese.

3. Catch your readers immediately. Always start off with a bang. You need some sort of hook to draw the readers in before you start elaborating on your story. I like to start my stories right in the middle of an action and not explain it right away (such as the opening sequence to Formera which still has yet to be explained). If you read the first issue of any series, a main problem is usually established immediately, but then takes a back seat for a time, while characters are developed and explored.

4. Take time between actions. This has been the hardest for me to work on. It’s very tempting, when drawing a comic, to want to keep going with action because it’s the most fun to do. But taking time away from the action, slowing things down, pondering important moments... these are all very important to the flow of your story.

I like to use Jeff Smith’s “Bone” as an exemplary example of this. He can spend several pages in his stories with very little camera movement (if at all) focusing on his characters (be it arguing, or doing something by themselves). This lack of camera movement forces you to focus on what DOES change between panels, and it makes you more aware of the characters personalities, much more than if the camera kept on trying to find the most dynamic angles.

Which brings me to...

5. Don’t be afraid to keep things simple. Another thing I’ve had a hard time forcing myself to do. When I began making the pirate comics for the internet, I deliberately kept things simple. I used a single fixed camera angle for nearly all panels, and I kept the pages to a simple 8 panel layout. By doing this, I was able to focus on the characters personalities and make them easier for new readers to identify with.

6. Try to make everything clear. This is a very important rule, which I dedicate a lot of time to. I want the actions in every panel to be as clear as possible. I try my best to choose the most direct, simple, and explanatory moments for all of my stories. You have to remember that sometimes your audience may not be on the same page as you are. You know where your story is going, but they may not, so it’s important that they can follow without being hindered by confusing layouts, awkward camera shifts, inconsistent information, etc.

However, this sometimes causes a problem for me. Because I focus so much time on making everything clear and concise, I have a real problem with breaking out of the panels and doing more elaborate layouts. Panel bleeds, characters overlapping boxes, elaborate page designs... all of this is very challenging for me to focus on because it goes against my strict “make things clear” rules. I don’t like doing abstract stuff like that (so girls manga would be a very difficult style for me because it’s usually abstract and emotional rather than concrete and practical).

7. Important actions/information should be in larger panels. This just helps the story flow better. If a very important piece of dialogue or action happens in a small panel, it’s sometimes easy to overlook and readers might not attach any importance to it. So always try to have the most important thing on your page be in the largest panel.

That brings me to this fun little trick...

8. Leave the reader hanging at the end of each page. For book 2 of “Formera” I started paying a lot more attention to the page numbers and always ending the odd number pages (the right side) with a little hint of something to come. This causes the reader to want to flip to the next page and see what happens. It’s a simple trick, but one which is very VERY useful. For “Formera” book 1, I wrote it as a web comic, and as such EVERY PAGE was designed to have some sort of “OH NO!” moment ending it. When reading it as a book, it makes the pacing a lot faster and more urgent, which isn’t always a good thing. Lol.

9. Seed your comics. I like to leave deliberate plot holes in my stories when I write, because often I have no idea where it’s going when I begin anyway. I make vague hints of stuff, reference to things, or have a character do something unexpected. When I have enough of these little “seeds” planted throughout the story, I then begin to go back and explain them. It would be best to write the whole story out first, and then go back and plant these seeds BEFORE you start drawing your comic... and my method can sometimes lead to really challenging explanations if you planted a wrong seed early on. But it works for me, so do what you think is best. When you plant little seeds at the beginning of the book and eventually pay them off at the end, it makes your stories feel much more unified.

10. Don’t be a slave to the closeup. It’s very tempting when writing comics, especially as I love to focus on the emotions of the characters, to focus a lot of attention to the faces. If you do this, however, you’ll get nothing but closeup shots and your comic can feel claustrophobic. Do some establishing shots to allow the reader to understand where all the characters are in the scene, and to be more aware of the surroundings too. Drawing backgrounds shouldn’t be a chore. They should be fun to do. Think of the environment as a character unto itself. It needs it’s share of the spotlight too. That’s what I’m trying to do with world of “Formera” in my books.

Finally I just wanted to say, don’t stress out about consistency. Your fans are going to find mistakes no matter how hard you try to keep things 100%. You could go over and over and over your comic with 3 or 4 different people 50 different ways, but someone out there will probably be able to find a small drawing mistake, an inconsistent background, a color error, etc. Don’t let it get to you. You’re human, and humans make mistakes. I have problems with this because I like to focus on the characters and what’s going on, and little nitpicky details like that bother me. I try to find them beforehand, but sometimes I just miss things and some fans can be really persistent about them. Just do the best you can and don’t worry about what they have to say. (Of course I don’t mean to ignore mistakes completely either lol)

So there you go. There are some tricks and techniques that I like to follow. They’re pretty general, but if you have any questions feel free to ask. Also, check out Scott McClouds books “understanding comics” and “making comics” because those go SO much more into detail about things I’ve touched upon here. They are the comic bibles, and a lot of their information can be used for film too.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Personality Test

This is gonna be a long read, and you can probably skip a lot of it too. I took a personality test which was rather uncannily accurate and I thought I’d share it with you all. If you don’t want to read the long description, you can skip to the bottom and just read my responses to it.

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The Nurturer
(Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Feeling) or (ISFJ)
“As an ISFJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you takes things in via your five senses in a literal, concrete fashion. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit into your personal value system.

ISFJs live in a world that is concrete and kind. They are truly warm and kind-hearted, and want to believe the best of people. They value harmony and cooperation, and are likely to be very sensitive to other people's feelings. People value the ISFJ for their consideration and awareness, and their ability to bring out the best in others by their firm desire to believe the best.

ISFJs have a rich inner world that is not usually obvious to observers. They constantly take in information about people and situations that is personally important to them, and store it away. This tremendous store of information is usually startlingly accurate, because the ISFJ has an exceptional memory about things that are important to their value systems. It would not be uncommon for the ISFJ to remember a particular facial expression or conversation in precise detail years after the event occured, if the situation made an impression on the ISFJ.

ISFJs have a very clear idea of the way things should be, which they strive to attain. They value security and kindness, and respect traditions and laws. They tend to believe that existing systems are there because they work. Therefore, they're not likely to buy into doing things in a new way, unless they're shown in a concrete way why its better than the established method.

ISFJs learn best by doing, rather than by reading about something in a book, or applying theory. For this reason, they are not likely to be found in fields which require a lot of conceptual analysis or theory. They value practical application. Traditional methods of higher education, which require a lot of theorizing and abstraction, are likely to be a chore for the ISFJ. The ISFJ learns a task best by being shown its practical application. Once the task is learned, and its practical importance is understood, the ISFJ will faithfully and tirelessly carry through the task to completion. The ISFJ is extremely dependable.

The ISFJ has an extremely well-developed sense of space, function, and aesthetic appeal. For that reason, they're likely to have beautifully furnished, functional homes. They make extremely good interior decorators. This special ability, combined with their sensitivity to other's feelings and desires, makes them very likely to be great gift-givers - finding the right gift which will be truly appreciated by the recipient.

More so than other types, ISFJs are extremely aware of their own internal feelings, as well as other people's feelings. They do not usually express their own feelings, keeping things inside. If they are negative feelings, they may build up inside the ISFJ until they turn into firm judgments against individuals which are difficult to unseed, once set. Many ISFJs learn to express themselves, and find outlets for their powerful emotions.

Just as the ISFJ is not likely to express their feelings, they are also not likely to let on that they know how others are feeling. However, they will speak up when they feel another individual really needs help, and in such cases they can truly help others become aware of their feelings.

The ISFJ feels a strong sense of responsibility and duty. They take their responsibilities very seriously, and can be counted on to follow through. For this reason, people naturally tend to rely on them. The ISFJ has a difficult time saying "no" when asked to do something, and may become over-burdened. In such cases, the ISFJ does not usually express their difficulties to others, because they intensely dislike conflict, and because they tend to place other people's needs over their own. The ISFJ needs to learn to identify, value, and express their own needs, if they wish to avoid becoming over-worked and taken for granted.

ISFJs need positive feedback from others. In the absence of positive feedback, or in the face of criticism, the ISFJ gets discouraged, and may even become depressed. When down on themselves or under great stress, the ISFJ begins to imagine all of the things that might go critically wrong in their life. They have strong feelings of inadequacy, and become convinced that "everything is all wrong", or "I can't do anything right".

The ISFJ is warm, generous, and dependable. They have many special gifts to offer, in their sensitivity to others, and their strong ability to keep things running smoothly. They need to remember to not be overly critical of themselves, and to give themselves some of the warmth and love which they freely dispense to others.”
*****************

With a lot of that, I totally agree and see a lot of myself in it’s description. The only thing which made me chuckle was the part about having beautifully functional homes. My house is a disaster area and I really need to get a jump on cleaning it up. Otherwise, this thing is pretty darn accurate to how I feel.

I can totally see myself at work and being underappreciated even though I do a lot of work (in past jobs at least) and also in how I tend to have problems dealing with negative comments about my artwork. I do have problems with saying “no” to people, and I don’t like conflicts. Although, I am a lot more ready to jump in and voice my opinion than this thing makes it sound like. I can think of several instances where I have butted into a conflict to protect others, and it’s a personality trait which I have been applying to Darian of my Formera series. The idea being that maybe through him, I can learn how to control it and be a better person. Hmmm...

I dunno. I just thought that was interesting. It’s almost kinda scary how accurate it was.

You can take a similar personality quiz to what I took (mine was on facebook and then I looked up the results on this website) to see what you are: http://www.personalitypage.com/indicate.html

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Formera Book 2 On Sale!

Book 2 of Formera is currently available! I was wondering what was up with the release date, cuz it was different on Amazon than it was in other places and I wasn’t sure which was right. But now looking over the links I see that it was some of the old review sites which confused me. They still say the 28th is the release of Book 2. So the date must’ve changed and I just got confused. Sorry everyone!

So book 2 of Formera is available and you can order it online, or go to a local comic book store and if they don’t have it, they should be able to order it. There are a number of reliable places you can order it online. The most reliable would be of course to go through my published Alterna Comics directly. But Amazon and Barnesandnobel.com are just as good. I’ll provide the links below just in case:

http://www.alternacomics.com/formera.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Formera-Two-Andrew-Dobson/dp/1934985074
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Formera-Volume-2/Andrew-Dobson/e/9781934985076

If you live in the UK or Europe, ordering online is the best way to get a hold of a copy. Both Formera books are available on the UK version of Amazon.com and I do believe that Alterna ships worldwide. But let me just double check to be sure.

Book 1 is, of course, available on all of the same websites, and also a number of online download site too (such as http://comics.drivethrustuff.com/ ) in case you can’t afford much.

So there you have it.. Book 2 is out... Now I really gotta get cracking on Book 3 so that it can come out soon too. I’ve written 3 chapters so far, so about another 6 more to go... then I gotta ink it, color it, resize it... oof...

And once again, I know where I want to go with the story, but I’m not sure of how much is going to come out in this book and what to end it with or how much to tell. They say that writing is an organic process, and I dunno about that cuz it’s pretty calculated to me...

Friday, January 9, 2009

My First Bento Box

[IMG]http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i52/TomPreston/MyFirstBento.jpg[/IMG]

Top Tier:
Sticky Rice with Raisins and Cheese cut to look like the Triforce. Hotdog Octopus and grapes.

Middle Tier:
Rasins, Prunes, and a Cheese Stripe

Bottom Tier:
Egg shaped like a bear, Onigiri with Salmon inside, more Hotdog scraps, and a fortune cookie.

These boxes are pretty small, so even with 3 out of the 4 filled with food, I was still a bit hungry afterwards. The Onigiri was quite delicious, especially with the cooked salmon inside. It was like eating a really big sushi almost. Surprisingly the sticky rice with cheese and raisins was quite good! As were the hotdog octopus.

I was running really late, so I wasn’t able to use the “official” hotdog octopus device, and instead cut them with a knife myself. It worked almost as good.

Well, I’m happy with my first Bento Box. It was probably one of the healthiest meals I’ve had in a long time (especially with all the McDonalds we’ve been eating lately ugh). I can’t wait to try and make something different tomorrow when I have more time to work on it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Black Ice

It’s dangerous. Just had a little accident tonight. As I was making my way to my car, I slipped on some black ice. I tried to stop my fall by reaching out for the car next to me’s hood, but my hand slipped and I ended up scraping my knee and falling upon my right hand. I’ve fallen down several times before, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen quite so fast and hard before. I laid stunned on the ground for some minutes, trying to get the wind back in me enough to get up and go back inside.

Got a nice scrape on my knee now, making it hard to sit down, and my fingers on my right hand are numb and swollen. Ugh. Good thing I’m a lefty when it comes to drawing...