Land of the Midnight Sun

So I just arrived back home after my two-week trip to Norway. In a word, it was amazing.

Purple Flowers with fjord

For the most part, I stayed in a little cabin my family owns way up in northern Norway, in a town called Burfjord. Because it lies so far past the arctic circle, in the summer the sun doesn’t set. It’s a little hard getting used to going to sleep in daylight, but the breathtaking landscapes are well worth it. Armed with a camera, a journal, and watercolor paints, I was determined to try to capture them.

While in Norway, I started a little travel diary using ink and watercolor. It began as a way of keeping memories for myself that I’d remember more than just pictures. Now that I’ve created quite a few pages, though, I’m considering turning it into a project to share with others 🙂

Painting in Norway

Here’s a few pages from my journal that explain how I arrived and a little of what I did when I got there:

Views from new york to oslo

Day 01

Day 02

Day 02 fishing

Day 02 fishing supplies

It was really fun painting with watercolors and trying to improve.

view of fjord from kitchen

a cloudy night

Overall, the experience was one of the best of my life. I had been to Norway a few times before, but I was so young that I hardly remembered it. I can already tell that I’ll remember this trip forever.

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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.

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.