Monday, December 14, 2009

Hotspot #16.2: Happy Birthday! Now... About That White Glove...

"Oh rub it in Daenon. Why don't you?!" - Jin

Wow. It's been another year already.

Last year, I challenged myself to ramp up the number of updates to my experimental comic The Longest Sojourn in order to finish it earlier so I could continue working on The Jaded.

I did some calculations, and decided to double the number of updates so I did not have to be doing TLS by this time this year.

So how did I do?

Well the good news is I managed to keep my promise up for most parts, and steadily kept on a twice-a-week schedule other than the week that I moved house. But hey, it's moving a house... gimme a break!

To improve my efficiency I swapped from traditional ink media to full on digital Wacom tablet. It was a bit rough in the transition stage but I dare say my work is fast approaching where it was before the change.

The bad news is I grossly underestimated the number of pages I would need to tell the story to the end. Yes I could have rushed it, but I decided not to ruin the ending of a series that has in a sense, grown up with me. So I had to extend TLS by another chapter, which means that The Jaded is still on standby until all daemons are uh... exorcised. (Sorry, bad TLS joke)

So at the end of the year I gave myself, I am still doing TLS.



But I am enjoying it immensely since I ramped up the schedule. The story just flows better. And I am wrapping up the penultimate chapter and starting the finale next week. It's on schedule (revised) but it's moving along, it'll just take at least another six months to complete.

So overall setting myself a goal has been a success. It's not everything I hoped for, but it got me started on the right path, and I know that I'm on the home stretch now.

Here's to another year, and beyond!

And then... The Jaded, Satyrant... HOTHE... W:DOA... so many ideas, so little time...




Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hotspot #21: Deconstructing Comic Collaborations and Crossovers

I have a confession to make.

I like collaborations and crossovers. Sometimes. In fact, I have a positive hankering to find ones which are done well.

The problem is that they rarely are. Which is perfectly understandable. After all the more people you add to a project, the more ridiculously obfuscated and difficult to manage it gets.

At the present, my mental backburner can't seem to stop thinking about collaborative efforts on the web. You see, I really really want to make one.

However, having taken part in a collaborative efforts before, I KNOW how difficult they are. And I've been thinking about how to make one and how to make it better. And so far I've identified the main problems with them are:

A. Focus - This is part and parcel of the whole collaborative schtick, apparently. When you have 5 different people with different styles of writing, you cannot expect them all to be heading in the same direction without a plan. Or a script. For some, part of the charm of collaboration lies in the lack of planning and spontaneity of it all. So... is there a way to maintain this and yet overcome this obstacle? More on this later.

B. Overall consistency and the lack of it - This is the main problem with having N different artists with different art styles taking turns working alternating pages. The overall effect? Reader keeps having to adjust to different styles and learning to recognize character A when drawn by artist B and character A when drawn by artist C. This is still acceptable if you're only switching styles say, every chapter or story, but when it's done page to page with vastly different art styles and formats... It can be really distracting.

C. Maintaining creator enthusiasm, or having a means of continuing after it has waned - When these collaborative projects start out, usually it's all RAH RAH from the get go. After the first few weeks, the enthusiasm dies and more often then not, so does the comic.

D. Scheduling- Some creators have lives. Some have VERY busy lives. The problem is usually when Creator A is free, it's Creator B's turn and Creator B is Busy. So Creator A has to wait for Creator B to be free, but when that time comics around... NOW Creator A is busy. Oh dear. In programming there is a whole field dedicated to solving this problem. That's how much of a pain scheduling is.

E. The fear of editing someone else's work in a collaborative project. I always yak and yak about HOW I write this blog to learn about making better comics. I have come to terms with one truth, especially with the recent look at a few comics. If there's any story involved, you need to plan ahead. And edit and proofread your planned plots. No getting around that. Period.

F. No finishing line. This is indirectly tied to the first point. With no finishing line, there is no focus in the project. And with no end in sight, creators can lose enthusiasm quickly, because frankly, as fun as a collab is, no one wants to do it forever.

So looking at the above observations, what I can I gather from this?


1. Goal. What do I want out of the project? Is it a fun exercise only? Is it an experiment? Or a serious effort? I need to decide on what I want, and take the steps I need to ensure it gets there, everything else be damned.

2. Finish Line. I need to start with an end point in sight. It doesn't have to be set in stone, but I need to know the scale of the project, how long it will probably take and how it will end. All this needs to be decided before I even start.

3. Inertia. Keep it quick and keep it moving. If it takes a year to finish a story, that's too long. If it takes too long in-between turns, that's BAD. People WILL lose interest in that time and it will be nothing but another famous abandoned project. So there needs to be a scheduling system that allows for busy people to pass their turns to people who have time, all the while maintaining a fair amount of balance in the amount of work people end up doing.

4. Robustness. The attrition rate for collabs is high. I need to plan for this and make sure that when people do drop out, the structure of the project is such that it is robust enough to survive with a replacement. Short and modular stories is the way to go.

5. Map. Plan the story first. It doesn't have to scripting all the way, but we need to come out with a preview of sorts first and THEN commit to a final version. Perhaps a round-robin, spontaneous storyboard version where the different artists get to do their fun stuff, then when that is done, we do the edits and corrections so it all makes sense, and come out with the real thing?

6. Roles. Division of tasks. This might not sit well with some. I will have to think hard about this. Instead of doing the normal one page a person way, for the sake of keeping a consistent style, I can think of two solutions to this so far:

a. One creator does rough 'pencils', one creator does linework, one creator does colours, one creator does text and editing etc etc. Might cause problems since everyone wants to be the penciller, although it might be possible to avoid that if the stories are kept short (~10 pages each) and the roles are rotated every story so everyone gets a chance to do each job.

b. Each creator focuses on a particular section and character. For example if there were 3 characters A, B and C. Creator Z draws all instances of Character A. Creator Y draws all instances of character B. Creator X draws all instances of character C. This is similar to what they did for the Disney feature Pocahontas, but it could get messy. On the other hand, consistency is maintained throughout the series, but then creators might get bored of just drawing the same over and over.


Wow that was a LOT of text...

With all this in mind, it looks like I'm going to spend more brain backburner time thinking about what's needed in planning and executing a collaborative project and maybe try a real example with what I've thought of.

You're all free to poke holes in what I've thought of so far. ;)



ps: Why yes that is a new banner image...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Well, I'm busy as heck, but I did take a little time to do a quick halloween pic of my TLS characters dressed up as anime characters! See if anyone can actually name them all!

Enjoy your Halloween, don't eat too much candy ;) And happy comicking!



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Postcards #12: Sunset Grill

Back in March (Yes that IS how long my backlog is) Kat from Sunset Grill sent me this email:


Hi there,

Stumbled on The Longest Sojourn lately and was rather surprised to
realize that it was by the same person doing this blog (which I'd been
following for a few months longer). I think I failed a spot check
there. At any rate, I'd love to have your thoughts on my comic, Sunset
Grill, whenever you have time or room in your queue.

http://www.sunsetgrillcomic.com

Good luck with your Advanced, by the way, and I hope you chose
somewhere warmer for it than I did for mine. The wrecks were lovely,
mind, but Lake Superior in September might not have been the cleverest
plan. *grin*

Cheers,

Kat Feete

One thing I should mention straightaway is Sunset Grill is a 3D art comic. That is, a comic made out of screenshots from custom made 3D models. There are quite a few of them out there, but I never really caught on to them for some reason.

Looks like this is a good chance to study why.

Hi Kat,

I finally got around to reading Sunset Grill. It took me a couple of days to get through the archive, and another few days to actually think about what I wanted to say in words.

Firstly I have to say I really like your writing, there's a wry sense of humour and the dialogue is funny. The futuristic setting and class conflicts, underworld and characters are also well-developed and engaging.

I have a problem with your speech bubbles though... more on that later.

I have to admit when I started I wasn't really enthused because of the 3D art style. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on the concrete reason behind it, but after much contemplation I think I've managed to narrow it down to three points:

1. Uncanny Valley Syndrome
Given that you work with 3D stuff, I'm guessing you should already be familiar with the Uncanny Valley Syndrome, maybe under another name, but just in case you haven't, I refer you to the excellent Wikipedia article. Here are some excerpts:

The uncanny valley hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.
...
A similar problem exists in realistic 3D computer animation, such as...
I think this is the biggest obstacle you are going to have to overcome. People are weird with regards to this thing. The more realistic the art looks, the less they tend to like it. Especially if it's 3D. I experienced a little bit of this when I started reading your comic, it took a couple of chapters before I could stop feeling uncomfortable about it.

I believe Pixar avoided this syndrome by heavily stylizing their 3D characters in The Incredibles and Up! You might want to consider it.

I'm not saying that you should immediately drop your art style and copy theirs, or anyone's. But I just wanted to bring your attention to this point, so you can decide for yourself what you would like to do about it.

Edit: I feel that I wasn't clear enough on this point, so I'm inserting a bit of additional explanation taken from the my comments below:

Basically, if a 3D depiction of a human being is "almost real", but not quite, or does not quite act like what it is expected to be, psychologically it can creep out the viewer.

My opinion is this is because what they see is something almost "real" but part of their mind tells them something is not quite right with it... so DANGER! THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM! Which explains the discomfort.

To avoid this, one can either:

1. Make it so realistic that the viewer cannot differentiate it from the real thing (CG effects in movies)
2. Move away from making it realistic, but instead stylize it and keep it cartoony... but in 3D (pretty much what Pixar and Dreamworks do)

Bottomline is, having your stuff in between these two extremes is kind of a danger zone. You might get the Uncanny Valley effect... you might not, and it varies from person to person.


2. Lack of Exaggeration, Contrast and Color Balance

The 3D models are given a lot of attention to detail. I like how you vary their features so much, the fine details you put in their clothes. But when you put them in comic form... the panels and pages well... feel... dead. Very static. Realistic-looking, and posing is good, but there's a problem with comics about being just realistic and nothing else.

Correct me if I am wrong, but in my book 3D art is mainly works for animation. I think it works pretty well to convey an action realistically if you have the advantage of moving frames. Unfortunately this is a comic. In a comic you need to compress several frames of action into a single panel. And for that to work well... you need to exaggerate the hell out of your art and posturing as compensation.

Sometimes people describe it as the art having a lot of "energy". Sometimes this means throwing the rules of time and laws of physics out the window... or at least bending them a bit.

For example there is a scene I quite liked where the cook Ana confronts Corrine for selling her out... with a kitchen cleaver.

It's not a bad image, but it does not quite send across the full extent of the menace which a few minor changes would have helped do:

This is in terms of posturing only. There is another problem in the colour palette used in the comic... It's always the same range of colours, and they do not change to reflect the environment.

At most it gets slightly lighter and darker, but that's it.

Here's an example. The setting for this is supposed to be a creepy street or backalley. I wouldn't really expect to see it lighted so well with soft, warm lights that show the colour of things so clearly!

A few seconds' work of levels adjustments throw deep shadows and take out some of the warmness, giving the feeling of harsh, fluorescent, street lighting in a god-forsaken part of town.


3. Very limited fixed perspectives and panel composition/speech balloons.

I have a love/hate affair with speech bubbles. Mostly its because many people use speech bubbles that clash with their art style. Speech bubbles like those used in comic life mimic those used in American comic books. The art style is bright bold and cartoony most of the time. It works well.

The cartoonyness of the font and bubbles do not as work well with realistic 3D art.

Lastly, the layout of the bubbles can be confusing. Sometimes they overlap and it's hard to see who is saying what.

Comiclife is a fun tool, but a few tweaks would really go a long way towards improving the bubbles:


The other thing is that the composition of the panels is severely limited.

I don't think I would be exaggerating if offhand... I said that 90% of the pages in Sunset Grill just consist of two characters standing and talking. The camera tends to stay fixed at the same distance from the talking characters, and takes pictures of them from the same angle.

This can be fine for a humour comic, but it can be boring as well. For a comic with action it's a complete No-NO.

After a while all the panels start looking the same. And that is pretty much synonymous with "boring", which in turn is synonymous with "bad".

Consider changing the point of view, add more close ups or compose the panel from the POV of the characters, and maybe even focus on inanimate objects when the long dialogues are going on.

Let the camera explore a little more. You can discover interesting ways to tell a story when you don't just take the direct approach of putting text and the picture of the character who said it together in the same panel.


Overall, I think your writing's good, but your medium of presentation and execution needs more work to stand out.

I'm still not convinced about using 3D art for comics yet, but I do respect your choice to use them and I hope the points here will help you improve them.

Good luck, and happy comicking!



Oh snap, I meant to write a postcard, but I ended up with a mini essay. I'm pretty sure I broke my 500 word limit again. XD


Edit: ArtPatient also reviewed this Sunset Grill a few months ago here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pinging Art #3: Wacom Intuos4!

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur there lies a place of called Plaza Low Yat. It is called an "IT Mall". Everyone knows it as THE place to buy anything electronic. I'm told that in US they call them "Fry's" or something like that. Or was it "Curry's"? No, wait- I think that's British.

Hm... fries and curries...

Well, anyway... in KL it's Plaza Low Yat.

Mind you this place which exists in perpetual organized chaos is not quite like the chain-store atmosphere of Fry's. It's simply an entire marketplace-like mall consisting of miscellaneous little outfits dedicated to selling electronics and electronic media.

I hate malls, so I have never been there in my life.

But due to certain circumstances which require I obtain a new graphic tablet, I decided to venture to the only place I could be certain to 100% find a Wacom Intuos 4 which I had long coveted.

My main worry was the price. I had already visited other stores in search of my dream tablet. I was really hoping not to have to resort to going to Low Yat, but tiring of condescending shop assistants trying to fob off old stock to me at jacked up prices (Think Intuos 3's at 30% more than recommended prices) I figured that intense competition would help me find a tablet my poor budget could afford.

Of course, on arriving there on the first day of the end of Eid, I ended up avoiding maybe 50% of the usual crowds. Not too bad at all. But as it turns out, lots of the vendors in Low Yat aren't above trying to fleece naive-looking girls looking for esoteric pieces of computer equipment either.

I hope I don't come across as too pompous when I say I am neither. But after some intense search, a lot of walking, price checking, and some very interesting observations on the art of dodgy salesmenship yielded an interesting experience.

"Oh those models aren't out yet, try this one, this is the latest!" (Intuos 3, HAH!)

"My price is the best miss! My competitor says he's selling them for 300 ringgit less but I assure you, he has none in stock! I checked!"

Fortunately I DO check. And competitor has them in stock for price within and below my budget. I emerged triumphant with a brand new shiny Intuos 4 and a hole in my credit card.

Well, a metaphorical one, ok?

So what can I say about it? (the tablet, not the hole). After my teeny A6 Graphire 2, the Medium Intuos4 really is very very nice. I can draw directly on the comp with this thing, and I found that the bundled software it comes with works much better than Photoshop for drawing and painting.


One of the first things I drew with the tablet. A self portrait where I look like a deranged killer. You'd look like that too if you'd spent your whole day in a mall.

It has to be said the Intuos 4's control is so much better (I still have more control with my chienese brushes, but let's not compare apples and oranges here). I am definitely enjoying learning to use it, ranging from the funky LED buttons and the touch wheel that lets me change brush size on the fly. It will come in handy when I go back to full colour comics again.

Overall...



Let's just hope that it's as hardy as my old Graphire 2. Now that was a solid piece of work...


UPDATE:

So far I find it quite possible to create an entire comic digitally. In fact I think the textured surface and the standard nib do a pretty good approximation of pencil on paper. I haven't quite experimented with the different nibs (felt and brush) yet. We'll see how that goes, but for the meantime, sample of the digital comic making process:




I still think my rough blues had more energy though.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stopover at Catalyst: Nice but Niggly...


I'm not sure how I found Catalyst. It's been on the edge of my radar for quite a while now, but I never did remember how I found it.

However... I came across it regardless, on a whim I went through the archives recently. It's quite a fun read... the art is gorgeous, the characters (well some of them) are interesting and the world is nicely different and original.

I won't say the writing is bad or anything per-se... but I will be honest that after getting to the end of the archive, something really niggled me about the story, especially when I can't help but feel that something is missing.

I frequently think about what makes good storytelling. In fact I've been accused of (and plead guilty to) of thinking too much. In my previous entry I think I mentioned a phrase that stuck in my head shortly afterward: 

Some good writers are bad at telling stories.

This is something I feel quite keenly, because I have a feeling I myself sit in this demographic; that is, I have a pretty good command of the English language, I can write fairly decently and I'm aware what makes for bad writing; I can come up with unconventional original ideas and plots and have the added bonus of being able to draw somewhat.

But damn me, telling them stories well is where I run into all the problems. More often than not what I end up with is a faded, meandering, afterimage of what I envisioned, with the important things left out and what that does remain being arranged out of order. 

This is particularly prevalent in my experimental comic, The Longest Sojourn. Granted, it IS a comic I started when I was a gawky teen, when I wasn't aware of the importance of scripting and storyboarding. You can see it by how the chapters jump here and there, and how the plot gets more caught up with the characters's development it forgets about the direction and all that and meanders unnecessarily. Part of it is due to schedule, of course. Having to rush pages in-between real life commitments and flights and buses and trains doesn't make for smooth storyflow. Still...

Anyone can tell a story. The telling it well part is the hard thing.

Hm... about that something about Catalyst which still niggles me, even though I'm willing to bet most of the readers will not notice it on a conscious level- I think I know what it is now. I see too much of the same storytelling flaws I've made in it to be comfortable. 

There's a good story in there, make no doubt about that, but means of execution did not do it justice, and that was the niggling feeling. It could have been amazing and it only ended up pretty good.

There is a reason why I turned to scripting entire stories and getting them proof-read and rewriting the flaws out of them before even committing them to paper. Storytelling flaws, once executed, sadly cannot be corrected.

And I knew all this, but sometimes I forget them too.




Well I always did say the main reason I write this blog is to improve my art and writing skills.

Once in a while, I re-learn a lesson I forgot too, and be brought into awareness on how there's a gap in my knowledge that I still need to fill. 

And make use of.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Postcards #11: Reporterz

Today's Postcard will be a surprise to some. I'd originally decided to NOT review this comic, but I spent so much time replying the author as to why that was so that I realized that it was pretty much an anti-review.

It then struck me that such information would actually be really useful to some other authors in the same boat, more so than an actual review so... here we are. An anti-review Postcard.

The email sent to me from the creator of the comic is an extremely well-written and respectful email even if I didn't agree with some of the content. This was probably why I spent so much time replying it.  For the sake of privacy I've blanked out some of the information.


From: mastercougar**@******.com
Subject: A (Slightly Unusual) Review Request
To: webcomicfinds@gmail.com


Dear Ping Teo,

Do you review sprite comics?

I ask because the general opinion of the Internet seems to be that sprite comics are low-quality horse dung by default. I disagree- in my opinion it's not so much the quality of the medium itself as the quality of the people who make them. If intelligent writing were brought onto the scene, then in theory a sprite comic could be crafted that could stand up there with renowned hand-drawn webcomics.

So that's what I aim for. The question is, am I succeeding? I'd really like to know. Unfortunately, two problems have hindered my finding out. The first is the gut reaction most people have to sprite comics, so much so that they dismiss them on sight, rather than providing me with any insight I can work with.

The second is that the first hundred and fifty comics were written in 2004-2005, when I was thirteen. The writing there embarrasses me, and I know what I did wrong. What I'm interested in finding out is: how am I doing now? It's the recent comics I really need to focus on, ie: Storyline five and onward.

I know I'm asking too much of you. But I really need some good, solid feedback on what I need to do from here. Having followed your blog/column for some time now, I think that you're the best person for the job. I get the impression that you won't shoot the strip on sight because it's a sprite comic, but you won't be wishy-washy about it either. I'm really curious to know where the strip needs to go from here to stand on its own merit.

It can be found here:

http://reporterz.comicgenesis.com/

As for the plot, it starts out with a semi-generic video game journey, but I've gradually been trying to turn into a philosophical speculation on the nature of fiction, sprite comic clich├ęs, and reality.

My hope is that, even if you don't particularly enjoy the strip, you'll find something interesting to think about, and that I can get some useful feedback from your analysis. If you're not interested in reviewing a sprite comic, I understand and respect that.

Thank you for your time.

Will, or Mastercougar

P.S.: You may recognize the site layout.


I know what some will think... Sprite comicsThere is as the author said, a tendency to dismiss work based on the category the comic belongs to. This is not the first sprite comic that has asked for a review, but this is the first one I've thought to write a comphrehensive reply to:


Hi Will,

Well, as a rule of thumb, I generally only review comics that interest me.

I don't have any particular aversion towards sprite comics. I used to read a bit of 8-bit Theater, and before that Imanewbie (even though I never played UO I could follow it, and enjoy the absurd humour). I think the most recent one I read was a WOW sprite comic, albeit that one didn't last long and wasn't very good in all honesty.

Mind you, I do view sprite comics that are made by taking sprites from existing video games and sprite comics that use their own original homemade from scratch sprites differently. I class the former as something closer to fanfiction (or a fancomic, in this sense) and the latter as a comic with a highly stylized art style. (I believe the term they prefer to use for this kind of comic is "pixel art", and will shoot you if you call their work a sprite comic). For the purposes of lessening any confusion, when I say "sprite comic" after this I mean sprites taken for video games.

I am not saying that sprite comics can't be good and popular. They can be and are, sometimes even more so than original drawn comics because they already have a built-in fanbase to start with and they fulfill a very niche market. And yes, the not having the art chain slowing down the progression of plot and story does help. If you are looking for a fun hobby that can be enjoyed by many other people, yes, sprite comics are fine, just as fanfiction and doujinshi are fine and are even respected in their own ways.

If that's all you are after, you can stop reading at this point and ignore what I'm writing about below, and skip to the part about my feedback on your comic.


-----

Anyway, back to what you said: If " a sprite comic could be crafted that could stand up there with renowned hand-drawn webcomics" is what you are hoping for, I'm sorry... No. Not if those comic had anything other than a brain dead zombie doing the writing.

I don't shoot down ideas based on the general opinion, but as everyone who reads my blog knows, I don't hold back when someone asks me for my honest opinion. I believe that to be nothing more than a pipe dream.

This is the part where I probably get flamed. Yes I know the arguments that have been made about sprite comics and how they are viewed. I disagree with with what has been said. Like it or not, comics are a combination, and partnership of art AND writing. You can't neglect one facet, focus on the other, and argue that is enough to compensate because of "highly intelligent writing". Think of it as a score based system. If the scores were seperated as 50:50, and even IF you scored a perfect 50 for the writing, the art is disqualified because it's not your original work, and by extension your entire score.

It's like someone wanting to be a seen on the same standing as a Michelin-starred chef because they can create recipes but they can't cook and use pre-made ingredients for everything.

Like I said, if you're not aiming for that, that's fine.

-----


So much for my view of sprite comics in general. Moving on to something specific: your comic :)

Your letter was so charming and intelligently written, I have to say I was hoping to be proven wrong in my prior assessment of sprite comics. I love comics that surprise me.

But I found your comic really hard to get into. I tried. I really did. But the combination of the unappealing presentation and the overwhelming feeling that it was all a very big rant on sprite comics community stuff put me off. Not because of the fact it was a sprite comic, you understand, but just that as a comic it is not appealing to a reader, especially a new one.

I know you're interested in improving it, so I'll just try to keep it down to points on what could have made it better:

1. Website design:
I'm pretty sure the original Ocean Blue Template I designed for common use from CG comics didn't look like that, and while I applaud your attempt to customize the template, I really wouldn't recommend the background tile you are using. It is too garish, and it really distracts the attention of the reader away from the comic. Please consider something a bit more muted.

2. Subject content is a mystery
Your header says "A comic by MasterCougar". The daily news page looks like a rant about sprite comics. I have no idea what the comic is about in a glance, but from the point of view of a new reader, I'd assume this entire sprite comic is a rant about sprite comics. It could be wrong of course, but in this thing called web comics, first impressions are everything. A braver person than me would still feel the urge to hightail it out of there. It is highly unlikely a first time reader will hang around long enough to read your FAQ. And if your comic is hard to start reading, it doesn't matter how good your writing is, because no one will be reading it. At least consider a relevant tagline like "A sprite comic parody of sprite comics spanning different universes" or something like that.

3. Art and Layout:
Even sprite comics have to pay attention to their layouts. I am not criticizing this from the artistic point of view and saying something like it is just a mish-mash of sprites from different games. I don't really care about that, it's a sprite comic, that's what they do. 
I'm talking instead, about readability. I see walls of texts squashed together and tiny, blocky fonts that are hard to read. There is no spacing between panels, and the bright colours make it even harder for the eye to isolate a region as a panel. Space it out more, and learn to use empty space in the page to denote time.

4. Dialogue and Infodumping
There's WAY too much dialogue per page, and too much of it is not necessary. No one likes being lectured at, and no one likes being overwhelmed with unnecessary information. Even if it IS a sprite comic, the rules of good comic storytelling apply: SHOW, don't TELL! And don't infodump like you're doing now.

5. Inconsistent style
The beauty of pixelated sprite art is it that it makes use of a very limited template of colours and shapes, sharp and precise positioning of pixels in ingenious ways such as dithering and patterning to replicate colours and textures. In your comic I see none of that. Some your sprites are "blurry", especially when you zoom in on them and others in the same panel are sharp, resulting in clashing styles. Your backgrounds look like photos run through a photoshop artistic filter. The over all effect is awkward and inconsistent, it feels like something cobbled together badly. You may have a reason for that, but whatever it is- it's not working aesthetically. It may be sprite art, but sprite art still requires attention to look good.

6. Storytelling
You can write. But your writing still suffers in terms of storytelling. They are two different things. Some good writers are bad at telling stories. The biggest flaw I see in your writing is you cram in too much information (like I said, infodumping) and you have a tendency to try over-explain everything to readers, instead of letting them come to the conclusion on their own.

The last thing that annoyed me is petty... I really really dislike the substitution of Z for S in "Reporterz". It's just... tacky. This is a personal preference thing, but I thought I'd just mention it because I know I'm not the only one with a problem with this kind of naming gimmick.




To sum it up: I really admire the effort you are putting into trying to make a good sprite comic, but in my opinion, your comic is suffering because it isn't being presented as a comic, but just a piece of writing interspersed with sprites and lot of text in bubbles.

The worst thing is that somewhere along the way, you've seem to have gotten the idea that the reason people don't like it is because it is a sprite comic, and it in turn might have made you overlook the fact that it may be due to some other things your comic is lacking in, and not the genre your comic falls in. I can tell you now that while for SOME of the people it may be true, a lot of other people are read other sprite comics like Bob and George, but they are not reading yours. And it is most likely due to the multiple reasons I have listed above.

I hope I haven't been too harsh, and that you won't give up on something that you obviously enjoy despite my observations. If sprite is what you still want to do because you love the style, go ahead, but do consider making it with a comic in mind, instead of a just making sprite comic in mind. Honestly, the best thing you could do with your sprite comic is make it a silent sprite comic. Now I WOULD read a sprite comic like that. Hell I would make one like that, just for the challenge.


Anyways, The best of luck, and Happy Comicking!


Regards,
Ping Teo
Lonely Panel: The Webcomics Travel-Blog
http://www.lonelypanel.com



Sunday, August 09, 2009

This Rolling Stone Wants To Gather Some Moss

The nice part about cafes with wifi is that when you're moving house and have no internet connection set up: you can still log in and do a quick blurb on your blog.

This does not apply if you are overwhelmed at work, your colleagues are dropping like flies because H1N1 means anyone with flu symptoms gets sent home for a week, and it sucks to be the healthy ones left. 

Anyways, I'm moving house. It's tiring.

After this I have another diving trip. I think I need it ^_^;;

And after this apparently I'm being sent off to some other country for a long period of time for the benefit of the company I work for. Again. 


Now that's an improvement.

In the meantime... *sniff*  [SPOILER WARNING IF YOU CLICK ON THAT LINK]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stopover at Coding Horror/The N00b: When Life Imitates Art

It's been a busy month for me, mainly with coming back from a trip, planning another one, entertaining people and planning to move house.

And possibly yet another dive trip to Sipadan, one of the meccas of diving... :D

Anyway I apologize if I've been behind on the blogging. Heck I'm even behind on my comic, so I guess the blog is suffering a bit. But as you all know I'd rather write when I truly have something to say, as opposed to writing for the sake of updating frequently.

Something that caught my attention recently:


In all honesty that annoying Evony ad with withe puppy-eyed and guppy-chested queen has been getting on my nerves for a while, but I had no idea it got that far. 

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one to feel strongly reminded of this particular page from Gianna Masetti's The N00b. Mind you the actual comic was created long before this Evony thingmajig was made, but damn, it's freakishly uncanny.

It could almost be a parody...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stopover at ComicDish: Of Emos and Clan of the Cats

Hm, It's been a while since I've actually looked at Comic Dish. Last I've actually heard of them they were a bunch of formerly Comic Genesis-hosted people venturing into doing their own webcomic hosting, but it appears they've been doing podcasts and news as well. (Man... I remember when Digital Strips was the only webcomics podcast around!)

And for a long time too. Damn. I hate being out of touch after that 3 year absence.

This week apparently my renaming of the blog merited a little mention in their latest podcast (#80) although it seems none of them actually got the point of the name change... 

Can't blame them for not understanding if they have never heard of Lonely Planet though. Still I did think the jokes about self-harm were in rather bad taste. I suppose they were trying to be funny.

I did start out this blog intending to "give exposure to lesser known webcomic gems", but since blog's purposes did change from just exploring webcomics to studying, understanding and exploring what can be further done in comics, and I don't really see "webcomics" as a cause anymore, I prefer something more flexible with its meaning. And less generic.

Lonely Panel
  1. A pun on Lonely Planet, a popular travel guide to exploring new destinations. 
  2. A reference to a panel of people discussing a topic, in this case, comics.
  3. A reference to my intention of exploring the limits of single panel comic hybrids next.

*chuckle* Still, that's the first time I've heard of this blog being associated with emo... *looks up at header banner featuring a scuba diver flashing a cheesy happy grin*. Emo, eh? *keeps straight face* Riiighhtt...

Anyway, if you can endure some of the prattling, there's some interesting first-hand feedback and discussion on Comicpress, as well as a lot of other interesting news and titbits. Just be warned... they are a little long-winded.

It must be said... I can't help but wonder how in the blazes anyone who is seriously involved in webcomics reporting can actually refer to Jamie Robertson's Clan of the Cats as "A comic called Clan of the Cats"? (BTW, Happy 10th anniversary, COTC!).

A few years ago that wouldn't have been possible. It used to be that any comic in Keenspot... everyone would know it. I guess it's that whole fragmentation thing coming into play again. Things have certainly changed a lot.



In any case, something to think about while I'm away for the weekend.




Yes I AM going scuba diving again. However did you guess?! ;)




Saturday, June 20, 2009

Postcards #10: Luke's URL

Edit: The title of the featured comic should be Luke Surl Comics, not Luke's URL Comics... My bad! I can't change the title since that would mess up the URL (oh irony!) but yeah... my bad!

Today's postcard is something I haven't paid attention to for a long time: humour-based short strip comics.

I'll put my disclaimer right in the beginning: I am biased in my tastes, and I admit it. I prefer story-based comics to humour ones. It's not that I refuse to read humour comics, mind you, but just that I don't go out of my way looking for them. 

And now with that out of the way, lets look at the next in the line of requests I have waiting in my inbox:

Hi Ping,


My comic, www.lukesurl.com, has been running for a little over eight months now, with 124 updates to date. I'm mostly doing single panals or short strips, roughly in the vein of SMBC or xkcd. I received a review from Jackson at webcomicweek a couple of months ago (http://webcomicweek.blogspot.com/2009/01/review-luke-surl.html) and found it very useful, I was wondering if you would be able to offer your perspective on the comic.


Many thanks,

Luke


I like this email request in that it's short to the point, provides the important information you need to know about the comic without trying to tell you how to perceive it, and is polite and personalized. Even if the comic doesn't feel like it would be my cup of tea, I'd still take the time to look at it, because he asked so nicely :D 

Hm... I can't say I was overwhelmed with eagerness when I first loaded the page up. The webpage is simple but functional... and the art is well... Luke's obviously still learning, and although it's not exactly publisher material yet, I can see he does put a lot of heart into his work. And the amount of detail and effort he goes into is very apparent.



Unfortunately it's not quite there yet, and I can see that the art will probably scare away the less adventurous readers, though it's actually not as bad as many others I've seen, and it actually suits his goofy, tongue-in-cheek writing style very well. 

Fortunately, this comic isn't one which demands fine and impressive art (as story-based comics tend to do) but relies more on the writing skills of the cartoonist.

The target audience of this comic is obviously college students. I suspect if I had read this a few years ago when I was in college I probably would have enjoyed it more. Even now there are some bits I can still identify with. Overall, it focuses on college humour, with a bit of real world parody thrown in.

I'm of two minds with regards to the writing; At first the jokes made seemed well... lame. But after a while you realize that THAT is the point of this comic. Sure... The jokes are overly silly sometimes, so much that you groan. Sometimes they're horrendously bad (kind of like the bird puns I tend to make), and sometimes they are unexpectedly brilliantly witty, and sometimes they surprised me by making me cackle uncontrollably. But in the end, you laugh anyway.

So while I wasn't exactly fond of the writing at first, it kind of grew on me. And there is a certain charm in Luke's sense of humour that hits the nail on the head, for all its shortcomings. 

Overall, I find the comics' unpretentiousness and laid-back style quite charming, and it's a good example of what it is: a fun project and pastime. I'm really glad to see it that way... too many comics spoil their own work trying too hard to "make it big" they forget it have fun. You can see Luke is obviously having fun doing this comic, and the feeling passes on to the reader.

While it's not something I'd exactly subscribe to, I can see why the target audience probably likes it. While the art is a bit of a let-down to the writing at times, it has steadily been improving, and this is particularly evident in the more recent strips.

A bit of study on perspective and anatomy on the part of the artist. would probably go a long way as well. And maybe toning down the backgrounds a bit. Sometimes they are too garish and steal the attention from the foreground objects which should be the focus.

Overall, Luke's comic is a reasonably fun read although it doesn't particularly stand out from the usual crop of comics found on the net. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, and I can't see myself enthusiastically endorsing it, but it's not a bad read for a bit of silly humour.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stopver at The Economist: Comic Fragmentation and Taking in the View from Mainstream

I came across this piece by The Economist on comics and Stan Lee.

In case you don't know, The Economist is a published news magazine, the type that stuffy businessmen carry around and read while flying business class in between meetings. 

Safe to say, comics are NOT usually a topic found in the The Economist. Most of the time they concentrate on real-world happenings and science stuff, like elections in Iran, the collapse of GM... global warming... that kind of thing. However, this particular article does tie in with my personal conviction that the writers of The Economist are actually mostly Oxford-graduated closet geeks ;) but that's just my theory...

Anyway, despite it being about the old tried and tested Marvel mainstream comic book hero and comic book movies, I did find one portion of it rather interesting:

A problem of character

But there is a hitch. Mr Lee’s most celebrated creations appeared at a time when comic books were widely read. The heroes were honed over many years by other writers and artists. As a result a great many people of diverse ages are familiar with them and will happily spend $10 to sit in a cool cinema and renew their acquaintance. Blockbuster audiences are built not of enthusiastic fans—there are never enough—but of people who are vaguely aware of a character or a story and want to see what a studio does with it.

These days it is extremely difficult to propel new characters or stories into broad public consciousness, and therefore hard to mobilise a mass audience for films based on them. Take Alan Moore, a revered writer of comic books. His works have inspired five ambitious films (the most recent is “Watchmen”), none of them hugely successful. And what goes for comic books also goes for television shows, computer games and other fodder for summer blockbusters. As audiences fragment, there is simply less mass content to throw into the Hollywood recycling machine... (read more)


While I disagree on some things in that article, it does have a point about the audiences fragmenting. Even the "webcomics community" has fragmented into individual comics on the web. (From my point of view after leaving for 3 years and coming back) 

It used to be collectives were everything. If you weren't in Big Panda... if you were in Keenspot/Keenspace... If you weren't in Modern Tales/Graphic Smash... etc etc.

And now, I'm willing to bet a lot of people who read online comics won't know what Keenspot is. (No offense, it's just an example of the fragmentation.)

But it's too soon to make any judgments on something that is in the midst of a metamorphosis like comics right now. Will it be it a good thing? A bad thing? It's too soon to say.

It should be interesting to revisit this topic in a few years time though.




Now excuse me while I go "Squee!!!" The lastest chapter of One Piece has freaking WHALE SHARKS in it! It's like my two favourite things, diving and comics coming together! <3


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stopover at Art Patient: Hero Review and Teething Problems...

IT would appear that I chose a bad time to switch to a domain name, as it seems Blogger's just been hit with a problem that left them unable to forward readers from http://webcomicfinds.blogspot.com to http://www.lonelypanel.com . This problem seems to be affecting all blogger sites, so I'm worried about anyone accessing using the old address being unable to find the blog :(

I kind of miss the old header, but hopefully this temporary one I made will hold the fort until I have some time to sit down and design a better one.

Teething problems norwithstanding...

In some other news, Delos over at ArtPatient reviewed Hero as well, so you can head over, have a gander and do a comparison with my recent review.

Ah well, back to troubleshooting *grumble*

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Landmark #1: "Webcomic Finds" Evolves into "Lonely Panel"

In all honesty, I never really liked the generic sounding-ness of "Webcomic Finds", so when I hit a chord on that topic in my last Hotspot, I decided to seize the opportunity and claim "Lonely Panel" which I really liked the sound of. 

I've frequently described Webcomic Finds as a "Lonely Planet for Webcomics", so it seemed appropriate that I end up with a final name with a multitude of comic-related meanings to play on. Including a pun. *evil laughter* 

I'll be working on reworking the blog and eventually my other works under the Lonely Panel name :D. And yeah I'm working on a new header too. 

I'd just like to take a minute to thank everyone for following Webcomic Finds so far. It's time to broaden the scope now, so I hope you will all continue to enjoy Lonely Panel.

Hotspot #20: Breaking Beyond the Comics Format

It is inevitable... after I read a comic that presents something new, my brain has been running over time thinking about webcomics.

"Eh... How is this different from what you usually do, Ping?"

That's probably what you're thinking. I should probably rephrase that better: Maybe my use of "web comic" is a bad choice. A digital comic is probably closer to the truth.

Hm... a Comp-mic? Pixelmic? Comixel? *cue groans*

Fine. For now... online comic.

In any case, I'm thinking about comics that are made solely to be showcased on a computer screen, and would not be able to be printed out without losing some or all of its impact.

Keep in mind that I am NOT talking about distribution methods. I'm not talking about a comic that happens to reach its readership through a website. Or the clandestine sort that gets forwarded around in office emails, or transferred through flash keys or even bit-torrented.

I'm talking about comics that break tradition by exclusively using digital technology as a format. 

The recently reviewed Hero and the hovertext in place of speech bubbles being an example of a deviation. Of course, Hero was still strongly traditional in some other ways, and there were limitations to the hovertext approach. But it was still a refreshingly new way of doing things.

And there's then-pioneering background animations in Aargon Zark. Of course everyone knows Scott McCloud's infinite canvas.

But honestly up to now, a lot of experiments in digital comicism so far tend to feel... gimmicky. Even the best of them suffer from Marmite syndrome, they either are love or hated, and most of the time are only tolerated for being a novelty.

However, novelty is NOT what I am interested in. What I've been searching for is a stable, universal something that improves upon the old tried and tested way of presenting panels and speech bubbles in sequential order.

At the end of the day, what we associate as the fundamental parts of a comic are still methods that were designed and optimised to be presented on paper. When comics shifted to the web, the same mentality remained.

And honestly, the longer I write about webcomics the more I begin to feel that the word "webcomic" has long since passed its expiry date. There really is no distinction between it and its traditional counterpart anymore. 

It's just comics. Period. 

Maybe I should just rename "Webcomic Finds" to "Lonely Panel" and be done with it.


...


I think I really might.



Back to the topic... I used to get annoyed whenever someone brought up Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud, mainly because of the stigma it gave online comics that we were just a bunch of geeks trying out gimmicky stuff with the comic format that would never work long term (though it wasn't his fault we were seen that way, really).

Ok, so now it still annoys me a little, but I understand a little bit of what Scott saw in the potential of the web now, although what he covered was but barely scratching the surface, and some of his ideas weren't exactly the most practical things ever.

But the point is in the experimenting. You don't experiment without failing. Fact. You don't find out new things if you don't try.

Talk to others. Try stuff. Fail. Explore, See other people's ideas, try something else. Fail. Research more.

This is what this blog is supposed to be about after all. Exploration of the online comic, not just exploration of online comics.

Heck I did my own experiments with the format myself, though by any standards what I tried was pretty conservative. And to be honest even I didn't think it worked that well.

But most of the experimental stuff we've seen in the last ten years or so art just that... experiments. Prototypes. When they fail, maybe we shouldn't just dismiss them as gimmicks, but give them a bit more thought on what when wrong, and what we could have done to make the new format and presentation better.

Yes I know. I'm sure I'm not the first to be talking about this. The attachment to the traditional format is very strong. Let's face it... we're not going to lose the old panels and bubbles formats until someone comes up a new format that is an improvement in every way that people are convinced they like it enough to adopt it.

It just hit me the other day that after I finish my current project, I really don't want to make conventional comics any more. 

I don't want to follow. I don't want to stagnate in pursuit of minute perfection.

I want to explore. I want adventure in my art.

In short, I want to try going beyond the current comics format.

As web technology progresses, more developments are bound to crop up. Some are going to be gimmicks and fall along the wayside. And some... some may revolutionize the comics art form.

Or destroy it.

Or supersede it.

Maybe it's the right way to go.

At the very least, I'd like to give it a go. 

Yes I know I'm probably aiming for the impossible.





But hey... I can live with that.




Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stopover at This Week In Webcomics: Rice Boy

This Week in Webcomics has done a review of Rice Boy, which I also reviewed back on my 39th Journey Leg.
 
The fun thing about having more than on review is that people see different facets of the same thing, so it's worth a read to compare the different styles and perspectives present. 
 
Honestly I think we need to come up with a system to link all the reviews from different review sites in a directory so it's easy to see if more than one person has reviewed a comic... Heh a comic review aggregator... I wonder if Comixpedia can be appropriated for this purpose?
 
 
ps: I apologize if the format comes out wierd, I'm trying out the mobile blogging thingmajig here...
 
 

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Postcards #9: Hero


Today's postcard is notable in that this is the first Postcard I've been asked to do not by the creator of a comic, but an ardent reader of it instead.

Hello,

As you probably have guessed, I'm emailing about a webcomic: Hero, by Hwei Lin Lim. I know that you are extremely busy and probably have a request list the length of an astronomical unit, but on the off chance that you have a bit of time...

If you haven't read it yet, well, I can recommend it at least as a personal favorite -- the art is beautiful, the story dreamishly meandering but well-told and meaningful. There's about 200 pages in the archive, and the narration/dialogue is done through hovertext, which I think is very liberating for both the visual and textual aspects. And if you have read it before, then I would be very interested in what you have to say about it, again given that you have the time.

And uh, I got some metaphorical weird looks last time I made this clear, but just so you know, I'm not Hwei -- I'm just a really, really invested fan. If that's a problem, then just say so and I'll disappear like a well-bleached stain. Thanks for taking the time to read this email!


Aoede



How am I to refuse such a charming request?

The first thing that will strike anyone who reads this comic is the total absence of the usual text and narration bubbles. Instead Hero truly transcends from "comic" to "webcomic" by making use of hover text for the narration.

This is not the first time I've seen anyone experiment with the web format by making the reader interact with the comic (in fact every page of Dr. McNinja has bonus jokes hidden in the image text) .But this is the first one I've seen that actually seen that makes the hover text the focus of the delivery and succeeds because of its simplicity. 

Others had the readers click to make a text bubbles or additional panels appear. Some played sound effects to go with the action scene when you clicked it... but here...





...you just hover over the relevant panels to make the appropriate text appear.



So the reading of Hero makes one feel more like they are reading an interactive picture-book, and oddly enough it makes one slow down to appreciate the beautifully watercolour-isque art and the enthralling, stylish story more.

Hero has a narrative style that is immensely distinct and endearing. Everything is narrated from the point of view of the protagonist, and by extension, every thing is described as a comparison based on the protagonist experiences.

For example the protagonist is so impressed with the memory of a wolf which is devoted to its human companion that he describes always having someone who will keep you company and wait for you as "having a wolf"

The odd speech bubble does make an appearance, but they are always pictorial "speech" bubbles.

I especially like how Hwei manages to sneak in bits of her local influences into his work. Subtle inside jokes like this one resonate with me :) (Yes yes, I did chuckle when I identified the cendol, sate and ang ku kuei!)

The story flow is interesting, although sometimes it feels like it jumps from one point to another, leaving the reader slightly bewildered at points.

In one chapter the format suddenly changed without warning, leaving me anxious that Hwei was abandoning her trademark speech hover thing only to have be relieved when she went back to it a chapter later. I'm still not clear on why she changed the format, my guess is that she was experimenting... but it did disrupt my reading for a bit.

All in all, Hero is something very special and unique out of the comics I have read, and in terms of webcomic finds, this is a motherlode of a Find! Finding comics like this totally makes writing blog worthwhile. I think I need to send Aoede a thank you email for this.


Edit: I'd confused Hwei's gender (Heh due to me thinking Hwei was the surname and Lin Lim was the name, which is masculine. ) My bad, and fixed ;)


Postcards are reviews requested by (mostly) webcomic authors. They focus less on reviews and more on critical insight and unreserved, honest, feedback. You can request for a review by emailing Ping at webcomicfinds @ gmail . com and if it interests her, she'll take it up. But be warned, when Ping says honest feedback, she really means it.

Pinging Art #2: Back in Black: It's Not About What's Black and What's White


I've done a couple of different styles of comics, from full colour to sepia-tinted greyscale. But pure black and white is not something that I've really explored or practiced, so it's only been recently that I've really paid it close attention.

I actually did fine-art for my A-Levels, but I try not to talk about it too much lest I be mistaken for a "snotty fine artist". IMHO that fine art attainment is nothing if it doesn't help me improve my comics, and fortunately, something I learnt back then does actually help, even though I didn't figure out how to apply it until recently.

Because I'm lazy, I'm just going to repeat something I said in a discussion over at Bengo's blog about what I discovered about doing art black and white. It's mainly my observation, but:

The bottomline is: doing good black and white requires the artist understand very well the concept of positive and negative space, and how to use it.

So what is this positive and negative space anyway?

The easiest way to describe it is thus:

positive space = important parts of the picture that we want to focus on.
negative space = the parts that are not parts of the important parts.


A lot of people will mistake positive space as "white" and negative space as "black" or vice versa. This is NOT the case and it took me a while to break out of this kind of thinking as well. What I really needed to know is that it changes according to context. Take this example below:



In both cases, the lines and shapes that make up the mouse are the "positive spaces". The background, whether white or black is the negative... the key point is the positive space needs to be in a contrasting colour from the negative space.

So now that we've shattered that particular mental barrier, black and white art suddenly becomes easier to understand, because we know it's not about whether the object we are trying to depict IS black or white. It's about conveying the important information to the reader in the correct contrasting colour.

We're used to drawing black on white, so we naturally define our positive space lines and shapes by drawing in black. But if the background is supposed to be black, use white for the lines. It's that simple. Or if you want it put the other way, fill in the negative spaces with black, so that the white left over is the positive.

Sometimes the rules aren't so clear cut. When two objects that are black are drawn next to each other, what does one do? Colour the whole thing black with white lines in-between? Or keep them black? Or for the sake of visibility, we need to defy reality and pick one and turn it white to they they form a contrast?

For this there is no set answer. It comes back to what we want to communicate to the reader.

Let's look at this example of a shady-looking guy. For the sake of the setting we want his face shrouded in shadow and he wears dark glasses to boot.



If he's a regular member of the cast, maybe the sunglasses are his identifying feature. To make sure the reader is able to tell it is him, sometimes the artist is obliged to flip the colours to make it clear he has a pair of sunglasses on his eyes.



On the other hand he could be a vital plot point and we don't want his identity to be revealed yet. So in this case we forget about contrast and all that and blend the face (glasses and all) into the shadows.



Like I said, it depends on what you want to convey.

Of course black and white art isn't just that simple, else anyone could just draw something and use and invert the colours to make it look cool. 




There are different techniques such as crosshatching, screentones etc. etc. But they're advanced techniques, not a base principle.

So the few things I learned about black and white art:

1. It's not about picturing black as black and white as white.
2. The choice of whether you want to use black or white depends on what message you are trying to convey.
3. Having both large areas of black and white spaces provides a pleasing visual balance to an image.

Anyway that's what I learned so far. Hope that came in handy, and as usual feedback and additions are always welcome.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Stopover with Dolphins: Diving Doodles



I apologize for the long silence folks. No I didn't drown on my diving trip or anything.

But I did drown in work when I came back.

In fact right now, I'm positively inundated with work which is being done in-between training sessions. It's seriously killing me. I need another diving trip already.

I'm putting finishing touches to the Black in Black Pinging Art entry, but in the meantime, allow me to distract you with diving comic stuff I did on my portable sketchpad (A very fancy name for two pieces of cardboard, ring binders and cheap printer paper I cobbled together)

The pictures were taken by my dive buddies, all with awesome photography skills!





After seeing water like that, the only thing you can think of is jumping in...




In my defense, I wasn't the one who came up with this joke...


... but I sure was the one who immortalized it in comic form!

Things to do during your surface intervals...


Walk the plank...


Imitate a floating starfish...




Irritate a REAL starfish...

(No I didn't hurt it in any way and I gently put it back where I found it after I picked it up)

All in all a good trip, the highlight of which was a pod of six wild dolphins showing up and swimming alongside the boat for a while. How can that NOT be awesome?!





Aaaand distraction over. Watch out for Back in Black maybe next week, and after that you'll be glad to hear I'll be getting on to another round of reviews again :) Happy webcomicking!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kensington is Annoyed; Mice Don't Dive Well



Well, I'm off for some Sun, Blue Ocean and living on a boat!

I've been preoccupied with getting ready for my upcoming dive trip this weekend, so you'll have to excuse my slowdown in posting.

Be "Back in Black" next week, so see you then!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pinging Art #1: Back in Black!


Wayfinder and Kensington Mouse, the two mascots for Webcomic Finds. Wayfinder is something of my avatar, and is based on my physical appearance except for the Explorer's hat. They both made their first appearance in the "The Essence of Infinite Canvas" comic I did for Comixpedia (now Comixtalk). The drawing is done in pencil and inked by fountain pen. Not the best of tools, but it was the only thing handy at that time.

Most of you probably don't know it, but I have an art blog called "Ping Art" that I don't really update anymore. It focused more on art techniques and equipment, but I never could find enough time to divide between my comics, blogs and other projects to update it more than a few times.

Time of Death: Around the same time I went on my 3-year hiatus. 

But now that Webcomic Finds has been brought back from the dead, I've been toying with the idea of resurrecting it and merging it with Webcomic Finds. After all as I have mentioned, I've come to the realisation my creativity comes in cycles... I read other comics, I learn and take notes, then I stop and start think-tanking and getting into long complicated talks about theory and stuff. Then I draw. And draw some more until I get tired and out of ideas and then I start reviewing again.

Yes that's my handwriting. On a graphics tablet though.

You already see the process of the first two steps in this blog (Reviews are Journey Legs and Postcards, Brainstorming comes in the form of Hotspots), so shouldn't I just continue and show you the third as well?

Recently a lot of people have started asking me about the comics I do. Generally I don't advertise my comics much on this blog, especially now since my main active one is an experimental one I started when I was around 14 (oops the magic age 14 again... and NO I'm not 14 now).

It's interesting to read for being able to see my progression through the years, but art-wise and writing wise it's also inconsistent because of the said passage of years, leading to a not very smooth end product. And while I love doing it it's not the best representation of what I can do.

And I'm certainly not cruel enough to introduce someone to my other comic while THAT is on hiatus...

But still... I would like to showcase some samples of how the stuff I learn from blogging can be applied to my own work, and making a point of showing that not only can I talk about comics, but I DO them too. 

Thus, I present a new Webcomic Finds feature, called "Pinging Art". 

Voila! The cycle is complete.

ps: The "Back in Black!" refers to me newly cracking the secret of black and white art into my rather thick skull ;) It is also a prelude to what will be the topic of the next Pinging Art installment.

UPDATE: I've now imported the old Ping Art entries into Webcomic Finds. You should be able to see them all here.