Friday, May 25, 2012

The Search for a Solution

With my wife still fighting back breast cancer - and doing very well - I have very little time to work on the graphic novel while juggling care for her and care of our two children.

A few weeks back though, I managed to squeeze out a little time here and there and started to tackle what process I would be taking to complete the book.

I have ruled out ink and paper, and have instead chosen to work in digital completely.  I think it will keep my initial costs down, and it will allow me to easily tweak composition and quickly fix mistakes.

Although I do have more of an affinity with ink and paper - it really just flows better and feels more natural - I think with the tests I have done, I have found a way that should still work well and produce a book that I can be proud of.

It will be created fully and only with FLOSS applications.  In the time that I have spent working in digital media, I have come to the conclusion that creating digital art should not cost a middle class fortune. The prices charged for "industry" software is outlandish, and only suppresses a large group of artists around the world from creating, or instead forces them to pirate the programs.

So, currently the process might be a little troublesome for an artist, because there is a lot of back and forth between programs.  In the long run though I think it will improve with the software and once I figure out a rhythm.

To date, I am still really only in the process of fleshing out the book.  I don't want to waste time with panel ideas and layouts. I just want to spend the time now to map the story out, get a feel for the location and characters and make the dialogue real and the narration have a decent flow to it.

What I have so far, is rough pages on individual sheets of paper in a notepad. I have then taken and entered the text into Libre Office and started to write it out - again each page on a seperate sheet - so I can then print it off, read over it and edit it some more. Each printed page has space where I can then start to layout the pages, panels, composition and dialogue in doodle form.

Initially I was planning on doing a colour book, and I wanted to go for a more realistic approach to the art. But the more indie comics I have read of late have only convinced me that the whole approach of having iconic characters in black and white helps the reader flow better through the book and story. I do not want the reader to stall on an image because they can't figure out what is going on, and therefore break their immersion in the story.

Also I believe it is cheaper for someone like me to print up black and white pages over full colour.  Besides there is beautiful design aesthetic to black and white images. Done right, when I see it in other peoples work, there almost appears to be a perfect balance on the page.  Truly a yin and yang thing.

So below, you'll see an attempt done recently using two fantastic programs, Inkscape and MyPaint to try and turn out what a finished page might look like. I say might, because I haven't even gotten into character designs yet, and I am completely new to spotting blacks. So this MAY be representative of what the finished product will look like.

Based on the template that Scott McCloud made and shows off on youtube, I created something similar in inkscape. Using my doodles on the written rough of the page, I create the layout and then export out a bitmap that I then do the "pencils" and "inks" in mypaint.

I hope to make a worthwhile template that I will share with others when it is completed.
Overall I am pleased with the current result. I do feel like I have a lot of work to do on spotting blacks. It just isn't a natural process for me yet.  Which brings me to the study I did below. I just wanted to see what looks "good".  I wanted to do more, but family duties forced me to put it on hold again.  I think the next exercise I do will require a more complicated scene.
I am waiting to try out the GIMP and Krita for this as well though.  There is something about mypaint that just seems to make it more geared to painting for me and not inking.  I fooled with Krita a bit with doing some inks and really enjoyed the way it seemed to flow.  But my old wacom died, and currently neither GIMP nor Krita work with my new Monoprice 12x9 graphics tablet (which is kickass and cheap), and Krita needs to iron out some interface issues, and the new GIMP was just released, and until it works with my tablet I can't even test it out.

Mypaint does work OUT OF THE BOX with my tablet though - I guess they use their own drivers or maybe its magic - so I'll continue to use it. And I really do love mypaint.

Ink and paper aren't out though. I've decided that I would like to do posters or illustrations a little more traditionally. My eyes need a break from monitors here and there. :)
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