Here there be dragons

Smartphone photo realism, with flying dragons

Smartphone photo realism, with flying dragons

All right, I’ve fallen off the blog again. I have some pretty good reasons, but they’re all the same boring ones: work, work, work. But! I’m halfway through this next major illustration project, so I can finally take a break for another behind-the-scenes post about process. This makes for a good follow-up to my last post as the drawing style followed a similar process for all the panels.

For this project, I’m creating ten drawings for a somewhat magical-realist novel in which the main character takes photos on her phone. In this first image, the narrator sneaks a shot of her husband playing his favorite online fantasy game, which features flying dragons and a steampunk zeppelin. While I knew this would be a lot of work and require producing three images–the laptop screen inside the room scene, nested in the frame of the smartphone–I was secretly thrilled about the prospect of dragons.

Once upon a time, I drew many dragons and unicorns. Yes, I was that kind of kid.

When I was 11, there were no interwebs. There were colored pencils and my D&D books.

When I was 11, there were no interwebs. There were only colored pencils and my D&D books. It would take a few years before I figured out proper human proportions, but boy could I throw down a unicorn

Anyway, it was fun to look up pictures of dragons and zeppelins and figure out how to assemble the thing. Naturally, I started off with the initial line work.

Step 1: pencil and ink

Step 1: pencil and ink

I brought the dragons into Illustrator as I knew I’d be moving and resizing them around a lot and wanted to work with vector images.

Step 2: vector dragons

Step 2: vector dragons

Then I bring all this into Photoshop. The clouds were done with custom brushes. The moon is an actual photo of the moon with lighting effects.

Step 3: Photoshop!

Step 3: Photoshop!

Then I spent another hour or so rendering the zeppelin.

Step 4: Tedious rendering

Step 4: Tedious rendering

Once the screen image was done, I started the second drawing in pencil and ink. After a quick, clean-up in Illustrator, I brought the lines into Photoshop.

Step 5: Exterior drawing

Step 5: Exterior drawing

Then I drop the screen shot in, render with other textures, and finally create an exterior of the phone to encapsulate the whole thing.

Initial drawing

Initial drawing

The client, however, wanted the image to be bigger, so I zoomed in on the screen a bit more (top image). The fingers are off to the side so you still get a sense of what’s going on.

And that’s it for Image #1. Only nine more to go!

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Digging up the old stuff

Recently, I had an idea for a comic/graphic story kind of thing when I remembered this odd piece I did over a year ago. I submitted it to a few places, but it’s hard to find a publication that will take a super detailed, multi-page comic. Or maybe I was just too lazy to find one. Well, after a rejection or two, I figured the thing was too much trouble to deal with, so I filed it away and forgot about it.

I’m basically a newbie with comics, though I enjoy the medium a lot. However, in terms of making them, they wreck havoc on my obsessive-compulsive/perfectionist tendencies. I find myself endlessly reorganizing the composition, agonizing over fonts, and reworking the story itself—which then requires more drawing and re-drawing. At the end of all that work, I’m stuck with this thing I don’t even know what to do with.

Still, it’s kind of fun. I’ve created one other comic before this, but if I do ever complete a third, I’ll probably use a less labor-intensive visual style.

Anyway, rather than let this thing continue collecting dust, I figured why not self-publish? So here it is.

Click each image to expand to a larger size for reading.

Page 1

Page 1

25_Girl5_page2

Page 2

Page 3

Page 3

Page 4

Page 4

Page 5

Page 5

Another project I’ll never finish

For years, I had this obsession with a short story called “Becoming” that I was trying to write but couldn’t. Despite drafting it about 1,000 times, the right ending eluded me, so I thought it might work better as a graphic narrative/comic. I’d had success doing that with another piece I couldn’t end until I drew it and really enjoyed the process, so I thought it might help this time.

I sketched out 24 storyboards and was at the point of making some character portraits when I realized the thing might take years. The panels in my head were such beautifully rendered things—each one in full-color, with ridiculous amounts of detail—that the thought of starting the first one terrified me. Worse yet, this novel clotted up my brain, demanding to be written, so I had to make a choice: spend a few years on one comic that I might or might not finish, or dive into a book that might or might not suck.

I’d never written a novel before but since comics tend to bring out the worst in me (my obsessive perfectionism doubles, given that I’m both writing and drawing), I went with the book. Three years later, I’ve got a solid draft I’m about to revise (since it does kind of suck) when “Becoming,” now renamed “Shark Skin,” has returned to haunt me. So I figured I’d try exorcising it by drawing the first panel. Someday when I’m able to hire a sweatshop of elves who can magically tap into my creative consciousness, I might finish it. For now, I feel better mainly because I simply wanted to design a shark tattoo.

In other news: congrats to trixiepants, who wins a free Facebook portrait! Trixie offered the only comment on my last post, but it was a good one that kicked my brain in the right direction. I’ve now solved my famous faces dilemma and know who I want to draw. Yay! I won’t spill the beans yet, but the results of my scheme will be coming soon.