Exciting News

Finally, finally, finally, Solstice, my graphic novel, has been published!! I pushed the self-publish button today, breathing a huge sigh of relief afterwards. This project was challenging in many ways, but I’m so happy with the outcome and am excited to share it with the world.

Here’s what the cover looks like:

The book is 75 pages total, with 67 pages of original black-and-white artwork done in ink pen. I created the cover art with a computer art program, which I also used to add in the book’s text.

Here’s the blurb:

Somewhere deep in the wilderness, a boy named Fox awakens with no memory of who he is. Upon discovering a group of children surviving in the forest, he is swept into the search for a missing boy. But one question still lingers in his mind: who am I?

Because it’s only one day after this year’s summer solstice, I thought I’d share a teaser. Here’s the first ten pages:

(click to enlarge)

If you’d like to read the rest, you can buy the book on Lulu.com. 😉

Here’s a link!

I think Lulu was the right choice for this project, however it’s going to take a while for it to be available on Amazon.com. I’ll let you know when it does, though.

Thanks so much for sticking around, guys. Your support has been amazing. Now that I’ve completed this project I can get back into blogging regularly and start some new fun projects! I’m so excited for what the future holds.

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My Graphic Novel is Complete

Finally, after months of working on my graphic novel, I have completed its final pages. The artwork needs no further editing, and the dialogue has been put in. I ordered a proof copy, received it, and am making adjustments at the moment in order to self publish by next week.

My blog, entitled Dreams and Letters, was originally made to document my process as I attempted to complete a graphic novel by May. It was supposed to be more of a scrapbook of ideas for me, a way of saving memories for my future self and maybe inspiring someone out there along the way. I am glad to say that I was extremely surprised at what blogging had in store.

I didn’t realize upon my blog’s start in February what a supportive community of people were out there, motivating one another to achieve their dreams as if they were already friends. All I can say is thank you to everyone who supported me along the way. Although I have been neglecting my blog during the past few weeks, when I did post you were all quick to give me a lot of much-needed motivation. You guys are why I love blogging, and will stick with my blog for years to come.

Thanks again.

Here’s a little timelapse video of me drawing a spread from the book:

Graphic Noveling Update

Hi everyone! I haven’t had much time to write blog posts recently because I’ve been hard at work at completing my graphic novel. By which I mean flailing wildly about with a crazed look in my sleepless eyes, murmuring to myself, “I need to get back to work!”.

It’s been a wild ride so far. I’m happy to say that I have finished drawing about half of the book’s total pages. Here’s a picture of some of them laid out on the floor:

pages on the floor

My set deadline is the middle of next week, when I will hit the glorious “self-publish” button and breathe a huge sigh of relief. The only problem is those 35 or so pages waiting to be drawn…

Well, I’d better get back to work! 😉

My Graphic Novel Drawing Process

As I work on my first graphic novel, I thought I’d share the process I go through to create each page from start to finish.

I’ve chosen to create traditional ink drawings and have them stay black and white because I feel it will tell the story better. Everyone has a different way of doing things depending on the project, time frame, materials available, and personal preference.

desk and materials solstice process

Materials

Paper

I’m using 9×12 smooth Bristol. It works well with inks and is sturdy. I believe that if you’re going to put in a lot of time and effort into your artwork, use a paper that lasts. A rule of thumb is to create artwork that is larger than it will appear in the book.

Pencil

I like regular HB pencils, but I’ve seen some artists use non-photo blue pencils, which are supposed to disappear on the artwork when scanned.

Pen

You can use anything under the sun. My favorites are papermate flair pens and Microns.

Eraser
Camera or Scanner
White-out
Sketchbook

I find a sketchbook extremely useful, even if I have a good idea of what a page is going to look like. You can test out pens and different drawing techniques in a no-pressure way. It also doesn’t have to be a sketchbook. Any piece of paper will do.

A Good Mood 🙂

Going through this process, I find this especially useful. Sometimes I’ll try to draw pages while stressed-out or worried and it ends up looking forced. I’ll often get really frustrated with drawing a certain thing (like water) and have to remember to take a break.

Step 1: Thumbnail Sketch

Sketchbook Thumbnail pages 8 and 9

I first make a rough sketch (or five) of the page layout in a sketchbook or random piece of paper. It helps to think about how the two pages will look side-by-side.

Step 2: Pencil Drawing

Pages 8 and 9 Pencil Sketch

Then I make a more refined drawing on the actual page. I usually don’t include all of the details that will go into the finished artwork. The level of detail I put into this stage depends on how developed the idea of the page is, and how difficult it will be to ink. Although it looks more finished than the thumbnail sketch, there is still time for changes to be made.

Here’s a tip: don’t press too hard with the pencil if you’re going to be inking over it, because the lines will be too dark and won’t erase well.

Step 3: Inking

This page went through some changes even after I started inking.

For this page I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like, so the penciling was limited.

Step 4: Scanning

This step is necessary for publishing and commercial printing. Also, I’m going to add text bubbles on some pages using a computer program.

This is what the pages look like right after scanning them. As you can see, the darkness of the inks got a little washed out. Also, the border is not aligned.

Tip: If you’re going to print your graphics in black and white, scan them at a high dpi so that they stay crisp.

Step 5: Editing

I crop the images until just before the edge of the panels.

Solstice process page editing contrast

Then I open up each picture in a photo-editing program. Using high contrast makes the ink darker and page brighter. I try to get the white of the image as light as possible so that it practically disappears.

Tadaa! This is the final product.

Step 6: Formatting

If you are self-publishing, there will be a specific page format for you to use in order to print your book. I’m using Lulu, which prefers PDF files, so I format the pages with Microsoft Publisher and then convert the file to PDF. I’ll share more on formatting and self-publishing later.

Solstice Formatting Process Pic

Finished!

That’s it. I hope this gives a little insight into my process without being too straightforward. I don’t have much experience with illustration in general, but I’m learning as I go along and it’s been so much fun so far. 🙂

Onward

I’ve finally, finally started actual artwork for Solstice. The entire project is behind schedule (like always) but in some ways I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds. For one thing, I edited the story and fixed basically every plot hole that could arise.

I can’t say that’s true for any other project I’ve ever done.

Of course, I didn’t do it alone. I had great help with editing and talked about the story, its problems, and solutions over a three day period. Now the story is a sparkling version of its former self, and I couldn’t be happier.

Now, onto the artwork!

I’ve had to do a bit of research first on the size of the book, its proportions, and shipping costs before starting to draw. I’m using Createspace, a print-on-demand publisher, and will go into further detail about the process of self-publishing later. One problem to tackle at a time.

Speaking of, I hadn’t realized how much math goes into this:

math and numbers

I’m not a fan of math or numbers, but it’s necessary for my project, unfortunately. I needed to measure out the book page size (7 x 10) and compare it to my artwork page size (9 x 12). Then I had to choose how wide the margins should be in the book and figure out how wide that would make the artwork margins. Yep, it’s a lot of work. Hopefully I’ll only need to do it once or twice.

I’m using 9 x 12 smooth Bristol board for the ink illustrations. Bristol’s usually pretty pricey but I randomly found a discount at Walmart. 🙂

Anyway, here’s the first page, which I’ve inked:

solstice page 1 ink start

solstice page 1 ink middle

soltice page 1 ink finished

Because I’ve chosen to create the line art traditionally rather than digitally, I need to scan each page onto the computer in order to color it. Then I’ll add speech bubbles and page numbers. It seems like more work but I believe that in the end it’ll actually be faster and easier than digitally drawing.

I think I also like the idea of being able to hold the artwork in my hands rather than only seeing it through a computer screen. Plus, its fun to draw with different kinds of pens!

My plan for the coming week is to draw as many pages as I possibly can so that I have ample time for coloring and formatting, which is scheduled for the week after. That’s okay, I wasn’t planning on sleeping anyway.

Craziness

I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last blog post. I’ve been super busy lately with the graphic novel, outside work, and general life. Not to mention a whole barrage of new distractions- tumblr, instagram, etc. I really need to start putting my phone away.

Anyway, many things have happened since my last post:

1. I Sketched 68 Pages of Solstice

Nope, it’s not finished yet. I have to get there soon because I’m really running out of time. Being a procrastination god does have its faults.

2. I Got 100 Followers

Yippee! That makes me really happy. I can’t believe even one person wants to hear me rattle on about my current obsession. Thanks. I really appreciate it. 🙂

3. I Sketched Characters

Hawk Sketch

This is Hawk. She’s the tough, bossy type.

Bear Sketch

This is Bear. He’s not cut out for the wild life. Too soft and squishable.

4. I Visited Cape Cod

It was beautiful but cold. I’ve decided that when I retire I’ll buy a tiny cottage near a lighthouse there, wear shoes with holes in them and a sunhat, and paint all day on the beach, my untamed white hair blowing in the breeze.

cape cod dock

5. I Bought a Guitar

I randomly fell in love with folk music (by Jose Gonzalez and Syd Matters) and now I quest to learn how to play it. It’s actually really relaxing. The first song I learned was Obstacles by Syd Matters.

my guitar

There you have it- random craziness at it’s best. There’ll be more next time. 😀

Moving Along

You know that big goal I set for myself- to finish thumbnail sketches for Solstice? Well, it didn’t quite work out  (surprise, surprise). Normally I’d be pretty disappointed, but in this case I’m still happy because I’m making progress. And I consider any progress at all to be a great thing.

So far I have sketched 34 pages of thumbnails. It seems like a lot but I think I have a long way to go considering I’m not even through half of the script.

solstice sketch binder

Yes, it’s a mini binder. Shhh- I know I have a problem. It’s just so cute and easy to organize. I even found these little plastic page holder things that perfectly fit my half-page sketches. It’s great because I can rearrange pages, re-edit them, and see how the book is going to read.
solstice sketch binder 2

solstice thumbnail sketch p 22

A couple of surprises I hadn’t accounted for made it harder to fulfill my goal of completing all of the thumbnail sketches for Solstice by yesterday (which I think was pretty insane to begin with):

  1. The tire of our car popped
  2. I misjudged how many sketch pages my script would create
  3. I misjudged how much time I really had (I always do that when traveling)

My goal for now is to just keep moving. 🙂 Hopefully next time I’ll have a more exciting update.

In the meantime, please enjoy some random nature sketches XD :

solstice nature sketching 3

I Wrote the Script

Yay! I just finished writing and typing up the script for Solstice! It was challenging but I finally sat down and banged it out on my mini legal pad.

Mini Legal Pad Notes

I love mini things. They’re so cute and non-intimidating.

I’m so excited because I can see the story coming together and I can imagine what the finished book will be like.

The script is 13 pages and about 1600 words long. It doesn’t seem like a lot, especially when compared to that of a written novel, but I’m pretty sure that it will become about 60-90 pages of illustration. The book isn’t going to be text heavy, so I think that number makes sense. There will be a couple scenes that don’t use any text.

Solstice Script Draft One Printed

I don’t know about you but I love printing out writing and holding the stack of paper in my hands. It’s a nice feeling, especially if you’ve been working digitally for a while.

The script is not exactly finished, as I need to edit and fix and add things, so I’ll just call it draft one. However, I don’t know how long I can edit if I want to be done by mid-May. I’ll have to speed up the process quite a bit in order to have a lot of time for creating art. From my experimental pages I can already tell that it’s going to be time-intensive.

After my quick edit I’ll finish sketching thumbnail pages and working out the visual side of the story, which I’m really excited for because I love drawing.

Speaking of, here’s some random doodles of nature:

Solstice nature sketching 1

This project has been really fun so far and I’m excited for the challenges coming up next. In the spirit of challenges, I’m setting a lofty goal of finishing thumbnail sketches by the end of Saturday the 28th. I have some time off so I think there is a chance that it could happen (if I get my lazy self off the couch).

Experimenting Some More

I’m still working out the text for Solstice, but I wanted to see what a finished page would look like, so I tried drawing one. It’ll also help me see how I need to schedule my time, as I don’t have a lot of it!

I’m pretty sure I’ll create the art digitally, with a program called Paint Tool Sai and a tablet. I think it will be easier in the long run because I won’t have to scan pages and format them. I can also fix mistakes a lot more quickly. (I’m sure I’ll make a lot of them). But that’s all part of experimenting- getting out all the kinks before creating finished pieces.

Speaking of, I ran into a problem while coloring the page. The line art/drawing part of it turned out okay but then I tried coloring it and it looked clashing.

Here’s what I mean:

I mean, everything’s the color it’s supposed to be (kind of). The sky is blue, the trees are green, and the sun is yellow, but they just don’t look good. It might work for some art pieces, but the look I was going for was more natural and easy on the eyes. I figured out what the problem was after doing a bit of research and observing other artists’ work- my color scheme wasn’t unified. The colors had nothing in common, so they didn’t fit together well.

So I tried editing the page (taking the easy way out):
Solstice practice sketch 1 edit 2

It didn’t exactly work out either. The whiteness of the page changed!

Finally I sat down and colored the whole thing again, this time making a palette of sorts on the side of the page and adding a little bit of orange to each color:

Solstice practice sketch 3

oh no I spelled except wrong!

I think it worked out much better. Fox’s hair kind of blends in with the background and the value (lights and darks) is a little wonky, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’m glad I took the time to figure this out. Hopefully the whole process will go faster in the future.

This page is just an experiment. The story will deal with a similar sense of loneliness, but I’ll have to see what format and words it calls for when I reach this point.

Remember how I changed the story? Well I tried making a synopsis to get it straight in my head. Here goes:

A boy named Fox happens upon a group of children celebrating the summer solstice after waking in a forest with no memory. After one child claims to have seen a shadow-beast lurking around the camp during the night, the group realizes that the forest may hold hidden dangers. The leader of the group, a girl called Hawk, organizes a scouting group and recruits Fox to join and explore the forest surrounding the camp. As they watch out for the mysterious shadow-creature and run out of food, tensions run high. They soon realize that the greatest threat to their delicate society may not exist in the forest outside, but within themselves.

So it’s going to be kind of like a Lord of the Flies story set in the North American wilderness with folk elements mixed in there. I love dark and eerie stories, so I wanted to make my own. I’m just happy that I get to draw trees and stuff. 🙂

Experimenting

So I’ve done some more work on Solstice and even started thumbnail sketches within the deadline I set. I didn’t finish the written script, though. I couldn’t keep going without some idea of what the story was going to look like on the paper. It was getting really hard for me to visualize everything while writing.

Here are some pictures of the pages that are pretty legible:

They don’t really count as thumbnail sketches because they’re so detailed, but I figured you’d rather see them than badly drawn boxes and stick-figures. I don’t know what size the book will be yet but I figured that a piece of copy paper folded in half was a good enough measurement to start with.

Turns out starting thumbnail sketches without finishing the script was a good idea. The story has changed. Again. It feels like it’s been through at least fifty different changes, but I found a storyline that I like a bit better than the previous one so I have to rewrite part of the script. That’s okay, because I know the end product will be better now! It’s good the changes are coming out before I do anything drastic.

As I was sketching thumbnails, it occurred to me how important they were to the creation of a graphic novel/comic. They help lay important groundwork that’s otherwise just swimming around in my head. They also get the major issues out of the story before I work on the minor ones, making it easier in the long run.

With that, I’ll present a random front-page/cover idea that I couldn’t resist developing:

solstice cover idea

Like I said- just an idea. (It’s supposed to be an animal made out of little trees and stuff, by the way). It looks a little too scary and demon-ish to me right now, but who knows? Maybe after I get the story done It’ll be fitting. The book is going to play with the idea of nature’s dark side.

My plan for now is to keep developing the story while working on the script and sketching thumbnails and character reference sheets. So basically doing everything at once. Yeah, this plan isn’t going to end horribly or anything.