Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Year #1: Ping's Favourite Finds of 2004/2005!

It took Eric Burn's Websnark to remind me, but Webcomic Finds turned 1 year old on August 12th... And I completely missed it.

Which annoyed me really, because I had a feature planned for it and stuff. I wanted to summarize the picks of the year.

Better late then never I guess.

A little over one year ago, I thought what a great idea it would be if I started reviewing comics. I liked doing it. I'd often done them in forums. But I wanted something more official. I considered doing a review site by proxy, with a drawn comic instead of a review (You'll recognise my prototype for the comic that eventually became "The Essence of..."), but then I decided there were review sites enough already. I really didn't have anything I wanted to add to them and reviewing in comic form has its limitations.

Then I got one of my ideas. You know, one of those weird notions. I was rereading a Dalton Wemble article over at Comixpedia, when Dalton mentioned several topics, including the importance of having people recommend comics through links. Then suddenly it stuck me what an interesting experiment it would be if someone explored the world of webcomics through the links page. Where would you go? How many new and interesting comics could you find from the links page of a comic that you like?

And Webcomic Finds was born.

There's been some misconceptions about Webcomic Finds, the main one being that it's a webcomics commentary site like Websnark and many others. It's not. This is my travel journal, and my journey is webcomics. Occasionally I might talk about other stuff, but the main focus is exploring webcomics and finding new ones.

Now that I've had a year of exploring, I've covered a staggering number of comics, some which were ok, some which weren't and some which were unmissable. It's time to go over the list and pick out my favourite Finds of the year. This is something I'll be planning to do every year, by the way.

Firsly, this is not a top ten list. This is the ten favourite new FINDS list, which means these are the top ten new comics I discovered last year than I am very glad I did. This also explains why old favourites of mine like Fallen Angels Used Books and Count Your Sheep aren't in this list. Love em to bits, but I did know about them waaaaaaay before I started the blog, so they weren't new. There are a lot of comics I like that aren't in here, many for different reasons, ranging from me knowing about them earlier or hiatus or rough spots. Doesn't mean I don't like them, but the ones in the list are the ones that I check religiously for updates.

Now to make this a little more special, I decided that instead of just I list, I'd add a little fanart for each entry. It's not much, and I do apologise for the quality (I'm just learning markers) but it was great fun all the same.

Without further ado, we have, in alphabetical order, the ten comics that made the past year of writing this blog worth while for me:

CatharsisCatharsis was the comic featured on the 32nd Leg of Webcomic Finds. One of the few webcomics online that prove suitable for all ages, it tells the story of a girl and her dragon... and naken squirrel... and dirt bunnies... and gargoyles... Well it's complicated. Catharsis is charming, well written, and overflows on the cute. It's got a huge archive, and if you like whimsical, heart-wrenching, imaginative humour, you owe it to yourselves to plow through this baby.

Copper didn't win WCCAs for nothing, but back then at the 16th Leg, I didn't know that. Although some reader of the New York Times accused Copper of being a shameless clone of Calvin and Hobbes due to the story being about a boy and his non-human companion, other than the initial premise, there's not THAT muc similiarity, really. It's pretty much as much similarity as between say... Batman and Spiderman). Watterson deals with nostalgia, imagination and real-life. Kazu deals more with fantasy, philosophy and intellectual symbolism. Despite the infrequent updates, each page is good enough to stand alone, so it's worth your time to look over the small collection, and enjoy the thoughtful writing and fantastic art.

Darken was one of my numerous stopover comics, and at that time wasn't updating very frequently. Now that the creator Kate "Komiyan" is in the 3-times-a-week "Lazy Grind", updates have been coming in thick and fast, and this comic has been nothing short of engrossing. A medley group of stock fantasy characters (Warrior, Dragon-priestess, Thief, Dark Elf and Black Widow) are out on a quest. The twist is: their quest is to take over the world of Darken! Finely balancing humour and adventure, if you can bear the roughness of the first few pages, this comic will have you in love with the fantasy genre all over again!

Digger. Everyone's been rhaspodising about it, and with good reason. Digger is the wombat who by an arcane twist of fate, gets tunneled into a world entirely different from her own. Now she's lost in a world of oracular slugs, dead gods and metaphorical pigeons, and with no way to get back to her warren. Other than the spell-binding black-and-white art, the writing... well... this comic can somehow be charming and macabre at the same time, sweet yet scary, funny yet tragic, and Ursula Verson shows you how! Unfortunately at this time this comic requires a subscription over at Graphic Smash, but for those who would prefer it, Digger is now also available in print format. Stopovered due to metaphorical pigeons...

LinT, the full name of which is "Life in Tehran" harks back to a time when comics were simpler and most importantly, FUN. The story is a praody of the typical DnD adventurers-on-a-quest set-up, but the heroic 'heroes' have been subtituted with the silliest, craziest and most lovable bunch of characters ever. From midget dwarves to wise orcs and sock-stealing theives, the characters go through adventure after adventure in the most unheroic ways. And although there's the occasional spare moment of drama, it never gets too far before the slapstick humor pops in to remind you this is all about fun, and that's the way comics should be.

Magellan Justice Academy. Fans of superheros who have gotten bored of the incessant rehashes and ret-cons will find a breath of fresh air in Magellan. Kaycee is the underdog 'norm' hero who is accepted into Magellan Justice Academy, a training academy for superheroes. How can she hold her own, especially when things in Magellan seem to be going into odd directions? It's hard to but a finger on why Magellan works so well as a superhero comic. I think the reason is that the superhero facet is a secondary aspect of the characters, and who they actually are the first. It's less about who has what power and super-ability, but who has the guts, the responsibility, and the good sense. Rule One of good writing: Make the audience care about your characters. Stephen Crowley succeeds massively at this, and Magellan as a result is addictive and compelling. Graphic-Smash only, but with lots of free samples. Stopovered!

Nahast: Lands of Strife has been struggling with updates lately, but you can tell creator Alexander Melchor is really trying. Another one of the fantasy comics, Nahast is different in that it has its own world and high level of world-building. The story behind Nahast is serious, and intricate, with the occasional light moment. Humour really isn't the central theme of the comic though. This is a epic fantasy, though it reads more like mystery and mythology wrapped into one. It's hard to put my finger on why this comic is addictive as it is, but if you don't mind the filler and sporadic update, give it a try and maybe you can find a better way of describing it. Discovered through a stopover.

No Rest for the Wicked is one of the most brilliant fantasy concepts online. Basically, it takes traditional european fairytales, interwines the plots and retells them in the most ingenious way imaginable. The moon has been missing, and Princess November, the Princess from "The Princess and the Pea" can find no rest until it is found. Accompanied by Little Red Riding Hood and Puss-in-Boots, they set out in search of the moon and her grave. The art for NRFTW is manga-styled, but creator Andrael has taken pains to make it her own personal variant of it. NRFTW is one of my favourite comics of all time, and if this comes out in print, I'm getting it. I like it that much. Found on the 6th Leg.

Shivae! by Tiffany Ross is an anthro comic. When I first found it back in one of my stopovers, I was surprised that something this good had managed to exist this long and elude me. Shivae! is an interesting look at a non-human centric world of creatures known as Shivae, which are sort of part-dinosaur part-winged-horse-like creatures (that's a lot of dashes, isn't it?). When aliens start showing up and invading their world, the Shivae come into conflict with the settlers and more often than not, are hunted for the treat they present to the settler's livestock. Their only solution is to run, but how far can they run if the settlers keep spreading? Other the cute character design and the gorgeous colouring by Tiffany's colourist, Flowerlark, the writing is compelling, yet touches on a lot of serious issues in a non-preachy way. Definitely worth a read.

Reviewed back in the 2nd Leg, The N00b is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the world of Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming. Our protagonist is a newbie who has just embarked on an adventure in the world of Clichquest, a cumulative parody of games like Worlds of Warcraft and Ultima Online. While the rougher language may turn a few people off, and The Noob's writing is ingeniously funny and more than make up for any shortcomings in any other department. When you hear an RPGer explain with a straight face that "deus ex machina means "God without a car", you know that Gianna Masetti is an evil evil genius.

That concludes my list. There were many many more comics that I would have loved to include in there, but sometimes a line has to be drawn. But if there were only ten new comics I could recommend to you, these ten would be it.

Looking at the list, I can't help but notice a really high percentage of fantasty comics in it. I must make a mental note to expand my reading tastes the next year. We'll see if things change. My agenda for Year Two is to have more random picks. I'm also thinking of doing more reader-interactive picks. We'll see.

It's been a long year, with many ups and downs. I've made a lot of new friends writing this blog, which I'm grateful for. No doubt I've made a few enemies too, but that's life, I can't please everyone. It also got me a number of of requests from numerous webcomic artists requesting for reviews (I'm working through the list guys. It's long. I'll get through it eventually) and invitation for other groups to write for them (which I would consider if I had more time).

But most of all, I'd like to think most of you out there liked reading Webcomic Finds, and I sincerely hope I've managed to introduce you to one of two new comics that you liked.

And that's the most important thing, really.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Stopover at The Tenth Life of Pishio the Cat: This is me waiting far too long to write about this.

Several months ago, there was a completely new comic that debuted on Graphic Smash.

It was called The Tenth Life of Pishio the Cat. Other than having an incredibly long title, it also had something many other comics didn't... a refreshingly original plot for a webcomics and non-human centric characters.

From the very first few pages, I fell in love with Zack Giallongo's amazing art and set-up. This comic, I knew, was something special, and did something very few comics manage to do within their first few pages: Get bookmarked immediately.

I would have written about Pishio long ago, but seeing that the comic had barely started, I resolved to wait a while for a substantial archive to build-up. (My magic number is 20 pages).

However, in that time the comic had managed to get a WCCA nomination and recently went independent, moving from Graphic Smash to WebcomicsNation.

A perfect time to start writing about it, since the archives are free now. ;)

The premise behind The Tenth Life of Pishio the Cat is simple. Pishio the Cat has been carelessly squandering his nine lives. When his luck finally runs out one day and he finds out that he's dead, he strikes a bargain with the powers-that-be for a last chance. Unfortunately, that involves risking his life-on-loan doing a dangerous task that even the powers-that-be cannot do. Can a cat find redemption?

With the recent NYT article and it's subsequent Slashdotting, a number of complaints about webcomics surfaced. While I am rather skeptical about the NYT article's viewpoint due to the writer's position, the discussion on the Slashdot thread I found more interesting, as a lot of them were from the viewpoints of the actual audience webcomics target. But anyway, one particular complaint was the lack of good-quality artwork in the webcomics.

Personally I think there's plenty of stunning artwork in webcomics. But because webcomics are learner's medium, the masterpieces get drowned in a lot of practice works, so the means the skill level of art is dragged down. It's a price we pay for not having editors.

All that said, the art Pisho is what you get when the comic artist in question is a professional illustrator from the start.

(Cat and Cock fight! (Yes, I'm aware how dirty that sounds) Click the thumbnail to see the original page).

The art speaks for itself, and in many cases, the writing as well. Zack is obviously from the the school of "show, not tell", so dialogue and narration are kept to a "need to know" basis, and never so much that the reader feels info-dumped. Instead, he prefers to let his composition and illustration skills do the talking and you get page after page of silent panels, where the reader is let to decide for themselves what they are seeing. Most of the time it works pretty well.

Those who need dumbing-down of their reading material and the main character narrating exactly what's going on so the reader gets it probably won't like Pishio. But those who like doing their own interpretation, a little bit of thinking, and lightning-bolt casting squirrel shamans will love Pishio.

All in all, Pishio is good from the get-go, and continues to be good so far. I'd even go so far as to call it a completely original, less-whimsical and more-violent cousin to Ursula Vernon's Digger. Given that Digger is one of my favourite webcomics ever, consider that high praise indeed.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pinging Art #0.7: A Quick Note on Drawing The Jaded Summer Afternoon Stories

Today I'm working on a page of The Jaded. "Summer Afternoon Stories" is a run of short stories I'm planning on having in-between chapter instead of "Outtakes". I'm also using this opportunity to try out some experimental stuff.

I'm drawing a page where Lysanne and Doc Ice are tramping around in the Lanner Place shrubbery looking for Lysanne's lost shoe. Why the shoe is lost I won't get into, but what's important is when they find the shoe they also find a chewed-up CD case.

First, the preliminary scribbles:

Then it's redrawing over the lines on a different layer:

And then we add colours. I'm using the experimental washy-white colouring style to get a sketchy look for the comic. Ironically it takes me more time in the normal method I use for colouring, but such is experimentation.

I think the hard thing about not using heavy colour is having to restrict my use of the colours. I'm using the colours as the shadows, and by deafult everything else is white. It's like colours, you try to work with less and let the viewer's brain fill in the gap. Tricky. Full colour is so much more easier.

And that's it for today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hotspot #11: Uncomplicating Webcomics

Apparently a journalist called Sarah Boxer from the New York Times wrote an article on webcomics.

And apparently it didn't go down very well in the webcomics world.

Eric over at Websnark wrote a strongly worded essay on it. Comixpedia has a raging debate going on as the indignant community rush to defend themselves.

Me? I don't understand how something so simple can be so damn convoluted.

Or to be precise, WHY anyone would even want to make it so damn convoluted.

Reading it over, it's an interesting point of view of an outsider to webcomics. It seems to have dragged a lot of preconcieved notions about 'webcomics' into ther article though. I mean look at this quote from the article:

"But when it comes to the content of Web comics, Mr. Groth was right. The comics that use digital technology to break out of their frozen boxes are really more like animated cartoons. And those that don't are just like the old, pre-digital ones, without the allure of the printed page and with a few added headaches for reader and creator alike."

No shit, Sherlock!You don't say, Holmes! What else is there between those two possiblities? Some super-duper hybrid?!

But seriously... What were they expecting webcomics to be? Taking all the fancy-shmancy theory out of it, in the end of the day they're still comics utilising the internet as a means of distribution.

They're comics on the internet.

In case you need it simplified further,

  1. They are a hybrid of words and art with a message/story/joke.
  2. They don't get to their audience by being printed on paper
  3. They use a network of computers to deliver the content directly to their audience.

Some of them may chose to add effects you can't replicate on paper, true. Sure, some of them utilise different ways of trying to earn money. A large portion of them are free. Some blur the line between comics and cartoons, and frankly, why are we being anal about that again? Comics blur the line between art and writing, after all.

At the end of the day, they're still, they're just, they ARE comics. Distributed by the internet. Nuff said. (Have I reiterated that enough times yet?)

I suppose this is point where I confess I have no idea who this "Gary Groth" guy is, and why he seems relevant to this discussion at all. And before you shoot me that shocked look, this is where I say with a straight face: "And frankly, I don't care unless you can give me a good reason to." (In case you're wondering, I did look him up for the purposes of writing this.) I just wish he wouldn't let his opinion of Scott McCloud jaundice his whole outlook about webcomics.

Yes, Scott McCloud may have been a pioneer in many things, but he is not the King of Webcomic-Land, sorry. Sure, I respect the guy. I agree with some things he says, and disagree with others. But not everyone doing a webcomic is an ardent follower of Scott McCloud, and I really resent this viewpoint that we are all in "Cuckooland" and drunk on experimental McCloud kool-aid or whatever it is they're insisting.

I personally never heard of Scott McCloud until my third year of reading webcomics, and never read "Understanding Comics" until after I started making one of my own. And I've run into plenty of people who make webcomics who go "Scott who?"

And here's another startling confession: I have never read Reinventing Comics. And I don't plan to anytime soon. The closest I got to that was reading "I Can't Stop Thinking", and that's it.

In short:

Scott McCloud DOES NOT EQUAL Webcomics!!!

So stop challenging points in Reinventing Comics already. My God, this whole thing is stupidity times TEN, and watching all this mud-slinging by the supposed "thinkers" of the form is like witnessing the stupidity trying to spread.

Why do these people have to make things so damn complicated?

Why are they acting so damn anal over a form of distribution?

And why can't someone for once, write an effing newspaper article about webcomics by taking them at face value and not mention Reinventing Comics even once?

Reinventing Comics isn't the origin of webcomics. Comics are the origin of webcomics. (Although, that really should have been obvious shouldn't it?)

Maybe that book advocated it, but let me tell you there are people who got into webcomics (and comics) because a news or gaming website somewhere linked a strip that got across the point they wanted to make. There are people who have never read a single issue of Superman or X-men who got hooked on a comic because someone sent them an email saying "Read this about [topic x], it's funny!". There are people who got their first introduction to comics through a Livejournal entry saying "This page just expresses exactly how I feel today".

Maybe those people who never read comics before started reading webcomics because they realised that hey, comics do not have to equal heroes in spandex, which before always got associated with the stereotype of nerdy teenage fanboys that made reading comics 'uncool' and "for kids" or "not for girls" or whatever bullcrap people spout.

Maybe they liked those webcomics because they were easily accessible through the internet. And maybe because it showed them how easy making comics could be, they too wanted to try their hand at it, not because they wanted make some statement on "art". Maybe they made comics and put them on the internet because it was simply the most convenient way to get it to their audience, and not because they wanted to reinvent the form.

A lot of maybes? I know that in one case at least, the person writing this rant got into webcomics this way.

Has it occured to anyone that there is a whole new audience who don't read comics getting into webcomics, and Oops! They bypassed traditional comics on the way? Maybe some will discover print comics on the way. Maybe some won't because they're happy to remain reading comics online.

Newflash: The comics world does not revolve around the (American) print comic industry, nor does it revolve around webcomics either. And frankly, I think it's better that way.

One more thing: Why is it no one expects comics in print to exploit the possibilities of the paper medium? *snorts* Seriously, Where are the 3D paper-pop outs going "POW!" when Batman punches The Joker? You don't expect paper comics to push the form towards the direction of origami just because they're on paper, do you?

While it would be pretty cool of someone did do that, you wouldn't expect every print comic to, so don't expect every webcomic to, because they're the same things... on different media.

Honestly, did people bitch like this about sequential art being presented on paper instead of paintings on stone walls?

"But when it comes to the content of sequential art on paper, Mr. Caveman Ugg was right. The paintings that use the bark of the tree to break out of the constraints of the immovable cave walls are really more like writings. And those that don't are just like the old cave-paintings, without the majesty of the towering stone and with a few added headaches for reader and creator alike (Due to difficulty in getting bark of tree and the durability of the work after being painted on the bark of the tree.)"

Pffft! I really have to draw that one out!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Stopover at No Rest for the Wicked and Nightfall Yonder Bremen: Well, I'd say it's a pretty good indicator...

Ok, there are few comics out there that I can genuinely admit to waiting breathlessly for updates because they have me hooked so badly. But I can certainly say Andrael Peterson's No Rest for the Wicked is one of them.

For those of you who need an introduction to NRFTW, I point you towards the 6th Leg of the blog, which is where I fins stumbled across it (and was very very very glad I did).

But what I want to talk about today isn't NRFTW. Instead it's the little bit of news that's currently on the front page of NRFTW.

You see, No Rest for the Wicked now has its own fancomic.

It's called Nightfall Yonder Bremen, and while it has barely started, it shows a lot of promise, seems competently executed and most importantly, tries to stay faithful to the original material.

I can't help but wonder how many webcomics out there have their own well... fancomics? Heck, some of the more popular webcomics out there ARE fan-comics (See Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi). Sure, many have had guest comics and fan art. A few have fan-works like fanfiction... but a fancomic of a webcomic?

At the very least, it does say something for No Rest For the Wicked. I'd say that it's a pretty good indicator of being a good read. ;)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Stopover at Astronaut Elementary: The WCN Effect

I'm not sure how I missed it, seeing that it was on Websnark, but Dave Roman's Astronaut Elementary apparently moved from GAM to WCN, which is the webcomics equivalent of shifting rooms in the same building, except that one is behind the subscription curtain and one isn't.

I like Dave Roman and his stuff, and naturally his being able to unleash his creativity unrestricted upon the rest of the webcomics world can only be a good thing in my view. But I can't help but wonder about this new shift in direction, especially when I know Dave isn't the only one to be/who will be doing this.

From the point of view of Joey Manley of course, it probably wouldn't make that much of a difference, because whether it's Girl-a-Matic or Graphic Smash or WebcomicsNation, they'll all under the Modern Tales umbrella. Still, I can't shake off the feeling that things are going to change a lot after this. Like it or not, the WCN effect is in motion, and I highly doubt that there is much anyone can say or do to change that.

Ps: I realise that with that last link I am admitting to reading the webcomics tabloid, but tee hee... that silly stuff is interesting sometimes. ;)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

32nd Leg: Cartharsis

After a nice long rest, we're back to travel the world of webcomics again! Today we're continuing from where we left off. If you recall (I highly doubt you do, it's been a heck of a time) the last time I was over at Super Hero Vindibudd and the banner of the ninja-cat caught my eye, leading me to...

Comic: Catharsis
By: J. Boeke

Setting and Elements: Modern Day, Slice of Life, Surreal
Content Type: Adventure, Drama, Humour, Severe Cuteness Overload ;)

Art Medium: Inked and coloured, Later Strips appear to be drawn digitally.
Art Style: Hand-Drawn, Stylised, Mix of B/W and Full-colour

Is About: Gwen, who happens to have a dragon as a pet in her apartment... along with a bad-tempered squirrel... and a ninja-cat... and a colony of dust-bunnies and fluffs...

Website: http://www.catharsiscomic.com
Frequency: Daily
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
The dragon and stuff looks familair, then I realise that I've seen Catharsis being endorsed by Adis over at Count Your Sheep before. Other than the given that if Adis endorses a comic it's probably good, the art looks really good, especially the dragon.

The website is simple, but enhanced with lots of em... tribal-looking... erm cherries(?) that make up the navigation. I have to idea what they are but OMG they are cute!

The Concept:
Comparisons to Calvin and Hobbes in envitable in this genre, because it's well, the story of a kid and his/her imaginary friend. Now imagine what happens if the kid has grown up and has to take on the challenges of being grown up, but the imaginary friend isn't imaginary but mythical instead. And despite the kid having grown up, she's still very in-tune iwth her inner child. Heck, she even turns into her inner child from time to time.

That's pretty much describes the concept behind Catharsis.

The Art:
While early art is done in grayscale, and differs from what you see on the front page, art is always competent, done in a very individual semi-realistic but stylised cartoony art-style. As the series progress, the art keep improving dramatically until it reaches the very attractive a recognisable stuff you see on the front page.

The artist seems to particularly excel at (how can I say this without sounding idiotic?) drawing cute stuff. Ranging from the balls of fluff with darling beady eyes to the crazy tribal cherries and naked squirrels, the plethora of of excellent cute character designs never fail to astound me.

There's not much background in most of the strips, but where there's a need for them, they're there and competently executed. All in all the art while although not jaw-droppingly awesome, is excellent in a comfortable sort of way, and very distinctive, which most of you know by now scores major points with me.

The Writing:
As good as the art is, the writing for Catharsis is the major pull. It alternates between 'funny' and 'light-drama', but it never lets itself get too serious, and the jokes are consistently funny. JB also has the knack of capturing those 'slice-of-life' moments that most of us have been through, like constantly making a fool of yourself in front of the cute guy from your building, or those awww when something bad happens and all you have is your dragon friend to hug.

The thing that makes my cup run over, however, has to be the characters themselves. Gwen is a very easy character to identify with, while Rremly is endearing, all the more so because of his apparent naivete despite being a dragon with a long lifespan. The other supporting characters have individual personalities that are well fleshed-out. Seriously, when the writer can give three balls of fluff distinct and lovable characters, it's hats off to the creator's writing skills.

Oh, and Bitey rocks.

Frequent fillers in the archives are annoying, but given that a comic of this quality updates daily it's understandable, although it doesn't make going through the archives any easier.

Other than that, no major quibbles I can lay my hands on.

It's not often that I come across a comic that I start reading and forget that I'm reading, because I'm so caught up in the escapades of the characters. Catharisis is a Find of Finds, and I'm very glad I discovered this little gem.

As an added plus, Cartharsis is suitable for kids to read, which as you remember I was stating not too long ago, is a rare amongst webcomics.

And I want a shirt with one of those cherries on it. :D

The Next Leg:

The Catharsis link page has to be one of the cutest I've ever seen. Being responsible, it even has a ratings system for the links.

The Dementia of Magic looks intriguing. Besides, something with "Magically magnificent!" as a description sounds good ;)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Pinging Art #0.6: A Quick Note on Composition and The Importance of Camera Angles

So here I am drawing the last page of The Jaded Chapter 3: Black Earth.

The scene I'm trying to illustrate is Doc Ice sitting in the passenger seat of a car, with Jade in the driver's seat and his crucifix earring very visible. Jade asks Ice a question, Doc answers cryptically.

So here's the preliminary sketch (digital equivalent of a penciled sketch) that I use for layouts.

As you can see, there's nothing particularly wrong with this composition. Everything that needs to be depicted is being depicted, but for some reason, the whole scene just looks rather... boring. It's flat and there's nothing particularly interesting about it.

So I decide to give the same scene a second go, this time using a different camera angle and a more dramatic viewpoint. The result:

I really liked this composition. It's important to note that the steering wheel in the foreground helps break up the motony and gives the panel more depth. Unfortunately, at this point, I realise:

  1. British cars have the driver's seat on the right side
  2. I can't flip the image because Jade's earring is on the left ear.
  3. Jade is supposedly nursing a recently broken arm, and shouldn't be driving anyway

Ok you can laugh at me now. So for the sake of consistency we relegate the two to the back seat, and someone else (presumably Juno or Lysanne) will be driving.

This is kind of a blow because that means I have to remove my steering wheel, but adding the window and the little rain shield at the top of it will help give a kind of frame to the picture. The result is a more 'closed' look, and hence a less empty-looking panel and better comic page overall.

Now back I go to sketching, or T won't be pleased at the state of my buffer! ;)

Edit: Thought you might be interested in the final result. I added theoverlay of the trees to give it a reflection-on-the-glass effect. Since it was the last page I thought it deserved something special.

Edit 2: Abby and Mos pointed out the perspective error on Jade's face which I missed, so here's the correction.

Having my mistakes pointed out to be is great, BTW. I can't improve without knowing what I'm doing wrong!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pinging Art #0.5: A Study of Drawing the Human Foot

Ah, my great nemesis. The foot. Worse than the hand... mainly because I don't get to draw it as much.

So today I decided: "Enough of avoiding the monster!", sat down and devoted a couple hours to studying the human foot.

One thing I hate about drawing the foot is that it's so hard to find detailed tutorials on it. Most books devote pages after page of how to the draw the face, body and hands, but barely include a page on feet as an afterthought. Even the great Loomis glosses over it, which annoys me to no end.

So here I go, Google for reference (BTW, don't google "bare feet" on Image Search. Just... don't). After a solid hours of attempts at drawing feet I won;t bore you with, I realised several things.

1. From the front, the human feet are a major a pain in the ass to draw.

Seriously, that wasn't really a revelation, but I just realised that anew. But back to the other points:

2. The human foot slants to the side.

There seems to be a line from the center of the foot to the center of the big toe which marks the split in directions the foot slants.

3. The heel is a cone.

I picked this one up from my copy of Action Cartooning by Ben Caldwell (An interesting book I'd recommend). The heel is sort of a cone, aligning with the leg bone at the point.

4. The human toes aren't just the bits you see at the end of the foot. They are connected to the pad thing at the base of the foot. (I never realised this before)

Don't forget to click on the image to read the notes I've scribbled on the diagrams. This is probably the most essential thing to understand to have the feet look right. Without the fleshy pads the feet don't look like feet.

5. The toes have joints. (Don't laugh, I should have known, but it just never occured to me)

This is the thing that make toes look like toes. They have to look crimped, otherwise they look unnatural. There's got to be that knuckle like bump and the little gap between the fleshy pad and the toe ends.

So with this new-found info, I'm going to test it out by drawing a series of feet from different positions:

The side of the foot is relatively easy. The important thing is to lay out the fleshy pads and the heels in the right places. The big toe is also bigger than the flesh pad, so it overlaps it.

This is the side of the foot, but from the side of the little toe. More common in view than the other side, it's imparative to note the little toe is smaller than the fleshy pad so you can see a bit of it over the toe end and knuckles.

View of feet from the top. I'm told by a very reliable source (my podiatrist friend) that the fleshy pad sticks out so exaggerating it makes for more realistic -looking feet when there's an in-curve.

The sole. Not particularly interesting, other than being a good map of the layout of the fleshy pads and toes. Note the you can't really see the second joint of the big toe from this angle.

The most difficult view to draw the foot from. You need to have good grasp of geometry and perspective to be able to lay the shapes in line and get the right shape. Important things in making it look right is having the fleshy pad in the right place and showing that it's slightly wider than the toe rows.

And that's it. While I would not like to pass myself off as an expert in drawing feet, I'm reasonably happier and won't be dreading drawing feet the next time they come up in any of my art projects!