Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Problem Solving

Today I was pretty tired. Nevertheless, I did do some work. I corrected some faces and I drew some new ones. I decided not to draw faces on all the characters because some of the poses I may end up redrawing. Maybe I'm just tired, but something is bothering me and I can't tell what. I notice this feeling when I don't have a clear direction of what to do next. Part of it is that I haven't kept inventory on the bust shot panels that I need to finish. So, I don't know how many I've done and how many are left. The next problem may be because I haven't worked out any new drawing elements, only faces. Redrawing old panels felt like I was moving backwards rather than making progress, and attempting to make progress by working on new panels was frustrating because I didn't have enough planning done before hand. I keep forgetting to stop my timer, which is annoying as well.

Now that I've written it out, that's exactly the problem I was having. When I'm at home I want to work on the actual comic, not on preliminary sketches. I have two options then: work on sketches (hands, bodies, backgrounds, effects, etc.) or rework the older face panels.

Recap: Take inventory and redo the old panels. Take your time and move forward when you're really ready and don't get ahead of yourself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Yesterday, I was noticeably pickier with my drawings than usual. After some thought, I decided to focus on explaining the head construction principles I've acquired over the years but rarely, if ever, have recognized. This will root out any bad principles and reinforce the good ones, since I'm essentially teaching the material to myself rather than burying it, untested, in my subconscious.

I want to continue with this method for as long as necessary. That means, I'm getting rid of the 64 page deadline. Going through and organizing my thoughts and putting the good ones into practice is going to be more beneficial in the long run since I'll be ridding myself of deep seeded habits that could continue to bother me for who knows how long.

The first thing I need to do is work out generic head principles. Then I need to state specific design principles for my current characters. I'm going to briefly mention the principles that I'm most familiar with and elaborate on the less known ones. Actually, after some thinking it seems I need only to state the specific design principles for specific characters.

My goal in a pure design sense is appeal. That's super abstract and something I'm not going to tackle right now, so I'll say appealing 'to me' for the time being.


Eyes- usually slightly angled outward at the top of the eye. Almost as if you're drawing slightly mad eye expressions. Size of the eye isn't an issue. Usually larger pupils are more appealing, but Dragon Ball has proven an exception, since Toriyama uses dot eyes. As I suspect it's the space he creates AROUND the pupils that makes for an appealing balance.

Eyes closer together are usually not as appealing. Dragon Ball is the exception again. I'll have to experiment more formally, but I've noticed that the closer of the two eyes in a 3/4 angle drawing is more appealing when skewed closer to the ear. In other words, leave some space between the closer eye and the nose.


Hair proportions

Glasses- put little circles near the top left or right of both lenses. The eyes need to meet the top rim of the glasses, which means there should be some space between the bottom part of the eye and the lower glasses rim.


I'm leaving the previous text up because it prompted the following developments and I think it's worth keeping. On some actual paper I began drawing some characters and bit by bit dissecting and reforging them into the most appealing things I can. I should note this was only ACTUALLY possible once I was somewhat familiar with the character. It seems after awhile my subconscious feelings of 'something isn't right' began to actually surface into something I could grasp... this is in general a very awkward transition as a person and over time I'd like to minimize the 'downtime' associated with figuring out a particular problem.

To rephrase the previous bit: Humans don't have 'instincts' to begin with. It takes a certain amount of time/ experience with a 'problem' before I actually recognize that there is a problem. Then I have to figure out what the problem is. Then I have to figure out how to solve it. Then I have to experiment until the problem is solved.

Back to the comic. My goal going forward is to begin drawing in the heads of all the panels and experimenting with new elements as the opportunities arise.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I've been mostly working offline over the past week. While I put in 4-5 hours of drawing on the computer, I've been drawing around twice that much when I'm at work. Most of it has been problem solving stuff, elements that I'm not too used to. I've noticed that in the process of practicing that I've stretched my muscles in these areas resulting in rediscovered skills.


My hands drawings have been crap lately. Historically, I seem to recall my skill fluctuating. I was doing some hand drawing practice and at one point I decided to switch from a realistic bone structure to cartoon balloon hands. The results were really good. All of a sudden I was able to remember how to draw hands properly! After a while of drawing with cartoon hands, I switched back to more realistic hands and they were much better looking. I think I still have some kinks to work out, but I'll wait until they actually arise when I'm inking before tackling this subject again.


I don't draw backgrounds very often. Most of my time is spent trying to make natural, appealing looking characters. So, one day I began drawing backgrounds of the various locales in my comic. By doing this, I was able to work out general problems about texture balance, where the shadows and half tone lines (crosshatch) marks need to be, room props and so forth. Going forward, I need to practice drawing lots of props. Also, experiment with line widths for background drawings.


One effect I've been focused on recently is what looks like a variation of the kirby crackle... But I've only ever seen it in manga. Either way, I love the effect and want to use it as often as possible. I practiced it once on a panel. This version isn't very confident. It was a cold run, and I've since practiced and studied the effect in detail so I'll be redrawing the panel. It was actually pretty simple.

So tonight continue to practice drawing these elements some more!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


So my goal is to finish all 64 pages of my comic before 2011. It's not looking very likely that it will happen at the desired level of quality. In other words, I can certainly draw all the pages but they may not look as good as I want them to.

I've decided on getting as far as I can and do one page at a time. I'd rather have 32 finished pages than 64 half finished pages. So the work needs doing, but I want to goof off! Instead, I'm going to at least set some kind of goal and play after I finish some work.

There are basically 2 kinds of goals: timed based and objective based.

If I had a timed based goal it would be something like- work for 6-8 hours. The upside to this goal is that I can eventually automatize a set timeframe for working and 'getting into it' won't be that difficult.

An objective based goal would be- finish 3-5 pages. If I am able to finish a realistically set goal, then there will certainly be time left over to do other things.

So here's my solution. Since my job hours are usually 4-12, I'll make that my work time frame. During that period, my goal is to get 1 page completely finished and then move on to complete more pages. I'll work from 4 until 11 tonight.


This image represents a breakthrough! Over the last couple of days, I've been inking the simplest panels only. That means, I've basically been inking frontal bust shots.

This process has allowed me to experiment within the most controlled environment possible; an environment with relatively little variation. From doing this, a genuine flair for drawing the characters has emerged. For instance, in this panel I have begun to understand and improve upon Amber's hair style. I had other successful panels prior to this one, but again I really felt like this panel represented an 'aha!' moment.

Oh yes, and after I complete these easy panels, I'll move on to slightly more difficult panels- basically bust shots but with backgrounds or hands. This will allow me to take steps and progress with the least amount of frustration. Also, I did 2-3 pages worth of panels in a day! So my productivity is actually improving a little!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I inked a couple of yesterday's drawings, just to make sure. I think I have finally solved the layout drawing problem! While these aren't the greatest inks ever, and there are certainly a few touches that can be worked with, I'm at a state where I can move forward with the layout drawing phase without worry.

The solid black scabbard looks strange for some reason. I think it's because I'm not used to using blacks so often. Again, these are details I can think about later on. For now, I should go ahead and work on character layout drawings (again). I say again because there are a certain number of drawings I've done already using a g-pen.

By the way, I think Eichiro Oda uses a 'school' pen. That's the pen I'm using to draw the layout drawings now. It makes a uniform line, like a kabura pen, but it's different somehow.

Again, do some layout drawings and then come back once you have some new observations.

My goal for Sunday is to draw as many pictures of Roland as possible. Also, clean up any unnecessary layers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For my next trick...

I seem to think it a good idea to finish the whole comic in a low quality. My goal will be to give myself a limited amount of time to work on each page and record the observations and results. I'll start with 1:30 and adjust as needed. Basically, I want a readable copy finished which I'll then follow up with notes on how to improve.

My first hour I realized something: The end results of my drawings are the same. I want to solve the problem at the root, rather than waste time finishing a drawing of poor quality and continuously improve it until I'm satisfied. If I solve the problems as soon as possible and replace the bad habits with good ones... Well, who knows what could happen. It sounds a little crazy if you ask me.

Let's look at my first specimen.

Stage 1: This drawing has some nice energy to it, looking back. Why did I take the handles out? Oh wait, it's because I'm too lazy to figure out how handles work!

Here's an attempt to make the hands look more natural when holding a sword. I think I'll go back and do something similar to the hands in the blue sketch.

A cleanup. Notice all the problems and how I didn't take time to fix them. I wasn't completely focused on the drawing.

Again, rather than fixing the problems, I go ahead and finish the drawing. Nice job... As a side note, I need to find a way to vary the line quality. Perhaps turning the opacity down more on the under drawing so I can see the line variation better.

On the surface, the line quality isn't very good. However, line quality ultimately doesn't matter. If the drawing isn't appealing, then it is the drawing itself and not the finish. There are several construction problems to work out:

The left side of the hair shape.
Sword hilt.
Sheath clasps.

You have to be able to consistently draw well constructed layout drawings before doing faster versions from which to ink. Let me say that again: There are no shortcuts. Pay attention to what you're drawing and ask whether what you're doing makes sense or not.

Steps for improvement-
1) Have model
2) Construct drawings

Begin with those two steps and record the results.

Looks like most of the old problems are solved. Honestly, it isn't that drastic a change. It looks like the sword hilt is better constructed. My hands overall need work. The line quality is better, but not great. I think the shopkeeper's head should be lowered significantly and replaced with sparkles and such.

I'll stop working on this drawing for now and pick another panel.


Ok, so I've done quite a few things in the last few hours. I seem to have built up a bunch of problems subconsciously, resulting in an overload of failures. So, let me see if I can't define all the problems down one by one and decide what to do next.

I don't have all the variations of this panel, but what was going on during this time was experimentation with line thickness and stroke. I dropped the thickness from (probably) .80 mm down to .70 mm in .05 mm intervals. The goal was to get the same 'default' line that Akira Toriyama has. This also led for a brief experiment with stroke. The only purpose was to give the option 'another shot' to try to emulate the g-pen look. Stroke on definitely does achieve the g-pen look but it doesn't look like Toriyama's style nor my own.

Here is a panel with what I consider to be the ideal thickness to shoot for. Actually, the balance is very good too, so I should say this is the ideal drawing. This drawing was not achieved with stroke on, and it was drawn in the .80 mm range. It doesn't necessarily emulate on the surface Akira Toriyama's inking style.

Also during this time, I began to experiment with blacks and shapes. I don't have any examples and I'm not going to make any new ones, but as an example I took the shopkeepers hair and made it black and then played around with the proportions. This didn't last very long, but I imagine it contributed to some of the anxiety build-up.

I was reading some One Piece during a break and I noticed that the character lines are inked quickly and almost crudely. Actually, I've noticed this before. The main point is that the drawing has to be appealing without the finish in order to be a good drawing. I keep gravitating toward the line quality instead of finding out how to fix the drawing itself.

So now that I've resolved that conflict, it's back to work.

Here's the best solution to my problem so far. I've found a pen with a uniform line that I'm drawing with. I seem to be able to cut right to the chase in terms of seeing construction problems right away without distractions.

Here are a few successes:

These all look like they're constructed just fine. I'm glad I barreled through this problem. Maybe for the next step I should ink a couple of these and see how they turn out... Or maybe I should draw some other characters. Hmm...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I finished page 25 yesterday (1:17) and began working on page 26. I noticed that my drawings were still 'unbalanced'. I'm still not quite sure how to define unbalanced, but right now it has to do with the proper proportions or ratios of negative and positive space which includes solids and lines. Included in this definition is a harmonious balance of thick/ thin line weight. In other words, my drawings felt 'off' and I began analyzing why that was.

I've been fawning over Akira Toriyama lately, so I decided to do some practicing. I think his drawings are really well balanced according to the definition provided above. I took some drawings from the comic and began copying them. My initial goal was merely to match or emulate his line weight and proportion.

Here's my first attempt. I wasn't at all trying to go for drawing accuracy, only line weight. A major, but slightly painful, leap forward for me was simply zooming out when I drew or inked. I'm used to zooming in more than 25% and focusing on each line individually. However, 25% was still very close to the image, showing maybe half of Goku's face while I inked. I think by staying focused on the whole image layed out a good foundation for improvement.

Still working with image zooming, I tried this next drawing at 20%. At this level, I can see the entire head of Jheese. This level provided me with great success! The only problem now to solve is the thickness of my pen. This drawing was inked at 1.00 mm probably.

This ink (the Freeza drawing) was inked at .95 mm. I found that this line weight was very close to the original drawing barring inking errors on my part. To correct this problem, I decided to drop the weight down to .90 mm.

It's time to start applying what I learned to my own work! Although it isn't bad, I wondered if I'd actually learned anything from the practice drawings. The balance is really off still! I wondered if it was due to lack of blacks...

So I filled the hair black. I think it does make a difference in balance, but only superficially. There is still line weight problems. It seems that, whether the lines are really thin or really thick or in the middle that the drawing still doesn't quite come together. My theory now is that this phenomenon is due to proportions and ratios.

Here's my latest drawing. I tried to vary the line quality a bit more (though the drawing is still flat in many places) and added more volume lines on the face and hair on the head. I think these are minor improvements, but probably still surface solutions like the black hair. Looking over the drawing, I think the left eye and the hair shape are not properly placed/ constructed and that leads to image imbalance. The ear is a little small, too. Anyway, I'm going to keep whittling away the problems until I achieve the ultimate balance!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Page 24

Total completion time (today) 1:37
Total estimated time- 2:25 <--includes concept, storyboard, etc.

I can't put my finger on it, but the page balance still feels a bit off. Maybe it's the line quality. I'll explore this theory by slowly increasing the pen thickness with each page. For page 25, I'll increase the thickness from 1.07 (1.00) to 1.22 (1.25)

Solid blacks really do help the balance so I'll try to use them more and more. Plus, drawing time is cut!

A simple thing I forgot was to put the balloon in the first panel up against the corner. At the time all I was thinking was "cover up as much bad drawing as possible". This leads to my next point. A goal of mine is to be able to switch gears from one job to another. If I have to, I'll write down the job first "inking", "dialog", "balloons", etc.

For the next page, I don't have a particular time to match or beat. My only goal is to finish and record.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Ok, so I've just realized something really important: I've been worrying about models and references and such, but in most cases I should simply draw it as if I were designing it for the first time.

"It" in this case is whatever reference, like the interior of a Model-T, that I need to research.

I say from now on have a general idea of the working mechanics and draw the thing myself, provided it doesn't take up too much time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Akira Toriyama's Influence

An English translation of Akira Toriyama's recent one shot Kintoki came out today and I got to read it. It feels just like all his other works... which is good and bad. But since this post is mainly about my finished page, I'll only mention how his drawing style effected mine. His linework is simple and fairly thick which leads to a clear silhouette; I used this method at one time with speedy results and I adopted it again today and had great success.

I finished page 52 today, which is probably the simplest page in the story. It gave me a chance to do a little bit of everything. I got to 'stretch my muscles' so to speak and I was able to get a feel for the way an entire page is worked out in Manga Studio.

Here's a breakdown of today's observations:

Switching tasks when listening to something. My brain tends to go into autopilot while I listen to music or podcasts. I am able to focus on drawing forms and line quality, but not correct construction in most cases. It's especially hard to shift from this 'relaxed' focus to a more focused state that involves evaluating a situation. In other words, I don't like to stop coasting when subconsciously I know I should.

What are the types of things I usually have to switch to? Backgrounds, props, and unfamiliar characters. For instance, today I had to draw the interior of a car.

As a related observation, I need to spend time gathering references and practice drawing them myself... BEFORE I start working on final drawings.

With a 3/4 view of the head, be sure and remember to space the facing eye away from the nose more than you think is natural.

With larger shapes, use thicker lines (especially since you're not using much toner). And, when you do use thicker lines, actually increase the line weight rather than going over the same line 2 or 3 times.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Minor Update

Ok, so I tried drawing 16 pages today like I said. I got the initial sketch part finished and a few pages of final inking... But I was entirely burnt out. Having a single finished page seems to be more satisfying for me at this point than doing a lot of something but not having any one page complete.

What sucks is that the former process can take longer; but I guess the by-product of being overwhelmed is too great a cost. So, I'm switching back to the page-a-day method for now. Perhaps once I actually begin generating income and my dream has become a reality can I then focus on an assembly-line drawing fashion. Right now having concrete, finished pages is my best measure of success. One step at a time.

Also, while I was drawing I finally noticed some bad anatomy. It wouldn't hurt to do a review of a page before inking it, if at least to get into the habit of spotting more subtle (sometimes) problems before I waste time and energy.

My next assignment is to finish a page and record all the observations so that I can at least work toward making the slower method faster.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Here are the steps I need to take to perform a 'sweep'. I'll record the actual results and evaluate whether this method is worth pursuing further.

First of all, my goal with working is to be effective AND efficient. I want to be good and fast. So, this is my guiding star for finding the best work methods.

This 'sweep' method is essentially an assembly line style of working. The main difference, however, is that assembly lines have interchangeable parts whereas drawings are (of course) unique, individual snowflakes. However, I can still get close to an assembly line sweep by drawing the same character consecutively rather than switching to a different object; in other words I think the most efficient way to draw is ultimately drawing on object in every panel that object is present before drawing another object.

What I'd like to end up doing is becoming so familiar with a character that I only have to draw a quick outline of the character pose in the storyboard stage and being able to draw a finished drawing from that. With this method I am skipping the middle stage of drawing a detailed character sketch and tracing over it, which is time consuming. I can't quite do this yet, as I don't understand the characters 100%. Also, my rendering needs work. I'll explain what I mean in another post.

Therefore, I want to try slowly phasing out the detailed sketch over the course of the 65 pages. I'll start by drawing and tracing 16.25 of the pages, and eliminate some of the process in the subsequent quarters.

Here's the plan: Draw detailed sketches of Roland for 16-17 pages. During this time, watch carefully and record the observations made while drawing and inking. I want to sniff out any problem areas I'm having with rendering and redrawing. I also want to find potential areas to omit for the next 16 drawings. After I'm done with Roland, I'll move on to Amber.

Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?

I want to start off by answering: "where am I now" in both the general and specific sense. In other words, a report from 30,000 feet and a report from street-level.

First, my long-term goal is to become a professional comic book author. That means, to me, that I should be able to live off my effort and earnings from writing and drawing comics full time.

My short term goals are to finish 65 pages of Comic A and a 10 page synopsis of Comic B before 2011.

So where am I now?

Comic A: The point of Comic A is to publish it online as an ongoing serial. It's not meant to be a tightly controlled story like Comic B, but more of a 'poem' and a way to build a readership and have meaningful, tangible progress on the way to my long-term goal.

The storyboard is finished. Although, due to the version of my comic program Mangastudio Debut 4 I can't do splash pages without some hassle (as far as I'm aware) so I need to redraw the intro splash page to be only 1 page rather than 2. That'll leave me with an extra page... I've also considered condensing the first chapter to 31 pages, but I'll talk about that elsewhere. The text has been entered and the panels have been cut. What remains is the final drawings, final text, and final balloon placement. I've been having some problems with the models, but maybe things have been sorted out. 43% complete.

Comic B: This is my tightly controlled work. Therefore, it's going to take longer before I see any actual results (drawn pages) because of all the planning involved. This is definitely a long-term project. Ideally, I want to be able to work on Comic A and B simultaneously since they can possibly compliment one another.

I'm still mostly in the Raw Materials stage. There doesn't seem to be an elegant way for me to transition from primordial goo (raw materials) into a skyscraper (finished plot). Actually, this blog may be what I'm looking for. Anyway, to the extent I have a plot, it's in a super rough state. I need to organize the data and begin to solidify a plot. Maybe 5% done?

So where am I now?

This is just a sense, but I'd say I'm about 20% toward finishing my long term goal and 38% toward my yearly goal. I'll explore these numbers later and see if I can't get more accurate.

Next: Some steps needed to move forward.

Some steps for Comic A: I'm going to go for a 'sweep' this time around rather than the '1 page per day' method. The first thing that needs to be done is to figure out whether I'm going to condense the comic into 31 pages or leave it as is. Frankly, I don't see why I should condense the comic, even if subsequent chapters are planned only to be 13 or so pages....

Is the comic a good introductory chapter? Does it introduce the setting and characters?

I think it does. I'm not working for anybody else, so I don't need to be too picky. I think it does it's job and does it pretty darn well. So now that I've decided on the length, my next step is to finish inking the characters. I'll write up the process in another post.

Some steps for Comic B: I think the best method for creating a plot from this point is to write. Start in a new document, and write a beginning, middle, and end in a few sentences.