February 26, 2014

I Have Absolutely No Idea What I am Doing: AKA How to Book

Welcome to the next installment I like to call "HOW TO BOOK". I'd like for you all to join me on this oh so special journey of putting together an art book. Frankly because I have no idea what I'm doing, I'd like us to all feel like that? Wait, that came out wrong. What I mean to say is that let's all be incompetent together! No...wait. That sounds terrible too. ANYWAY...

I set out to make an art book. Truthfully I set out to do this a year ago, but I'm finally putting the nose to the grindstone and getting work done. It's been pretty fulfilling/exciting so far.

Who Makes the Cut

The first problem I came across is who did I want to put in the art book. I had a theme: I'm using it as a way to show character design and art based on all my old tabletop RPG characters. I mean, I've got like 20+ sketchbooks devoted to them all, I should probably do something with all that practice.

this might be the 3rd time I've used this picture.

So I sat down and started to write out a list of all my game characters I had, or could remember off the top of my head. (of course after I organized all the old character sheets. YES I STILL HAVE THEM DON'T JUDGE ME). I came up with over 20 characters, and a lot of them were missing from that list.

It was very clear to me I just simply could not include all the characters unless I wanted to make some sort of 200 page monstrosity. Which is possible once I've made a couple of volumes, but really, I needed to think smaller.

So after a while of agonizing, crossing off, writing down, I came down to a list that's got 7 female characters and 7 male characters. For a book that would end up being like 90 pages (at first), I could do a few nice pics of various characters in between descriptions and some old reminiscing artwork. I then set out to start designing.

Managing the Workflow

First, when I started finally deciding on things, I only had a list of names to work from with no real goal. I know I wanted chibis, I wanted drawn turn-arounds, and some nice full images, but I had no real concept of what I wanted the book to have. This became very overwhelming. I think I curled up on the floor a few times being mired in anxiety and dread that I'd never get it done, and it would suck, and other various irrational beliefs.

So I asked myself "What would Aris [el husbando] do?" THAT'S RIGHT. MAKE A LIST! But what do I want? How much space do I have to work with?

That's when I got to have some fun. I dusted off and opened up my Adobe InDesign copy. It'd been a few years since I used it, and a lot of the panels got moved around, so one quick used book purchase later, I have a much newer more informative guidebook to using it. :) Which unless you're using it prolifically every day, I strongly recommend getting a guide to any of these programs. I can't express how awesome it is to have a physical way of looking up help.

I spent an afternoon setting up a "book".

This version is of course, several edits in...

I laid out the pages, tossed in some headings for each character, and tried to make "sections" of the book. I knew which characters I wanted to have more pictures of, and now I had a quantity of images to tasked with making.

Quickly I whipped open Word, and wrote out a table consisting of each picture I intend to have for each character, with a column for Pencil, Ink, and Colored.

This is the list that rules my life!

This list now sits...er... is pinned to the large bulletin board in my downstairs work area. So I can see it all the time and have the joy of checking something off when I finish a part. ANY ACCOMPLISHMENT IS WORTH NOTING. It's fun to fill in the boxes. I'll be "done" when all the boxes are full!

Just Keep Swimming Drawing

One of the more prevalent pieces of advice to artists is to just keep drawing. With my new list in hand and ready to be filled in, I can work on whichever pieces I want at whatever time I want. I don't have to do one before the other. So I drew a bunch of chibis! But when I got sick of that I switched to turn arounds, and I have a few penciled bigger images tossed in there.

All the meanwhile I'm still brainstorming what scenes I'd like to do, what outfits need updating, and what I want my finished product to look like. So I'm constantly testing stuff out, seeing how it looks on my current template, as well as doing a couple of print tests here and there. I'll open up InDesign and fiddle with a page when I get a new picture done.

Lorem Ipsum text is your FRIEND

I'll even stick in pictures completely unrelated (see above) just to see how the image spread looks. The fun part about all of this is in a way, it's non-linear aspect. I'll do batches of certain things depending on my mood. I can do little designs on the side while contemplating larger ones. It's like having a big unweildly project, but I know as soon as one piece is done, I can fill in that box and that's ONE STEP CLOSER TO BOOKDOM.

Thanks to this, I've gotten to the point where I am planning to have a neat parchmenty kind of background on the regular pages (not including big pictures which will be full-bleed), and I have a lot of sketches to work with! I'm always thinking about the book, even when working on other stuff and it's kind of nice!

I haven't colored anything large yet, but don't worry - the internet will be the first to know. :)

February 24, 2014

What I Want From an Art Book. AKA: How to Book

For the longest time I've really wanted to make an art book. I have numerous reasons for this:

  1.  It would give me the chance to make a lot of neat artwork.
  2. I can sell these artworks as separate prints, you know, in case the book thing goes down
  3. Print sales are sometimes on the decline and I've heard a lot of semi-older folks complain they're running out of room on their walls, so don't want to get more prints, but they love books!
  4. I collect artbooks myself! And LOVE them. :)

One might even say I have a problem.

So the first thing I do before heading off into any large endeavor such as this is to scope out the "competition" as it were. (it's a really bad term, maybe cohorts? fellow artists?) As I visit and vend at conventions I'll see other artists with artbooks up for sale at their table, and if it's a cost effective item for the book, I'll pick them up. I've picked up "sketchbooks" and "artbooks" alike (one is mostly sketches, the other has more "finished" pieces, and some are a mishmash of the two).

I've liked some of them (and I've picked those ones up, especially if it's an artist I know personally or their art techniques really strike a chord with me), but I'd say a majority of them I just set back down and never came back to. And I had to think about that. Why was it that I wasn't interested in buying an artist's book? I mean, most of them have beautiful artworks inside! I narrowed it down to a few reasons:

Cost Did not Match Product

It sounds weird, but this is usually the main reason I would set a book back down and not purchase it. I have no problem plunking down 20-35 dollars for an artbook, but to me, this better be worth my purchase. The biggest offenders of this rule is when the artist will spend copious amounts of out of pocket cash to get the book made - hardcover, pretty printing on front, nice nice paper, but to make up the cost their book will end up being upwards towards $35. Okay, I'm cool with that. What I'm not cool with is when the book dimensions are no bigger than half a sheet of paper (5.5x8.5), and there are maybe a total of 15-20 singular pages in the book. 
I understand the time and love it takes to make artwork, I do. But the size and amount you're getting in an "artbook" has to equal the price a layperson is willing to pay for it.  
Other offenders of this particular rule I've seen them make staple bound books, try to sell em for 25-30. Black and white insides only, Half Page sized. Usually these are no thicker than maybe 25 separate pages?  
NOTE: These are also considered "sketchbooks" I've seen some artists provide. They work really well for about 10-15 depending on the size of the finished book.


This is why I made the decision to have my book be at least 90 pages, but that turned into 100 pages (so it's about 50 actual pages thickness, and will end up being almost a quarter of an inch thick, but at this rate, I think it might get bigger).

No Descriptions

This has happened in a couple books I have, but I let it go for the time because they were relatively inexpensive. But one of the big things I love about getting official art books from a favorite series, or artists, is knowing what on earth the pictures are. I will admit, it's hard when some of the descriptions are in Japanese, but I let that go (I have mostly manga/anime books). 
Even just captions! A single sentence! HECK I'll even take random scribbled words next to doodles in the books. PLEASE tell me about these amazing pictures you've made! Are they your own characters? Did you want to draw a pretty mermaid? Were you inspired by another artist? PLEEEEEEASE TELL MEEEEE. 
Now, this isn't to say make me a wall-o-text, but if you've got a story, TELL US! I like knowing what's going on in an artist's brain, or if there's something in particular that you really liked about a picture. Or maybe something you are attached to with a character or design.


I wanted a book with good descriptions or captions, so I thought, what better timing to use my old game characters! (It would also let me have the chance to redesign some old ones, which are SADLY in need of it)  
I would like to do one for my comics, but I gotta draw more pages of those before I can do those ones. :)

Bad Layouts

Hrm. This one's difficult. Because not everybody has access to awesome software I try to be accepting of some book's shortcomings. We all can't hire layout artists for us, and we all don't have access to InDesign (which I'll talk about later). But sometimes a book's layout can KILL a potential sale.
And layout could mean a lot of things: General Layout of Text, Fonts, or Resolution of Images. AKA: Things a lot of people don't talk about when making books.
General Layout
I don't know about you guys, but I like a clean look. I want the pictures I'm looking at to be clearly demarcated from each other. I want breathing room between your sketches. Give me space between paragraphs and images, give me margins to breathe in. As much as I want you to cram in as much artwork as possible, please, PLEASE give my eyes some space to rest between pictures. Offenders of this particular "rule" are usually the ones with lots of "sketchy" kind of works, so they cram them all onto a bunch of pages to make it look like a "sketchbook" but really, it just comes out as a confusing muddled mess. (UNLESS it's from a page in a sketchbook that is actually just all those sketches - in that case, a CAPTION will work wonders)

I always feel a font can make or break a book. I've picked up and looked at books who want to use a really scripty font, or a really grungy looking thing, and they keep using it for their body text (main regular text). If I can't read your text, I probably won't want to buy your book. There are recommendations out there (use a google search!) that can tell you what works best for body text - your headings and subheadings, well, those are all you.

Image Resolution 
Resolution of an image can also be seen as "how much information of a picture can I fit into one inch of space on my picture?" For reference the lowest Resolution you should print images at is around 150 dpi (dots per inch). Web-ready pics? Those are at 72 dpi. I've had art books I've picked up with the idea of buying but put them back down due to the fact that half the images were pixelated or blurry. Or they were put into a particular filetype that left artifacts (jaggies) on things. Unless you're actually doing pixel art, your art should be sharp and clean. I don't care if you're just doing sketches. I'm not gonna buy it if you can't be bothered to clean up your artwork to sell.

I can't express how much I love this program.


I'm one of the lucky few who have InDesign. It actually came with the Adobe suite I bought 3-4 years ago now, and I never had a use for it. BUT NOW I DO. I also thankfully took a class in it several years ago, so it's still kind of familiar to me. I've been scanning in all my pics for the book at 600 dpi, and I've been obsessing over fonts for a while now. I keep doing research and trying new ones. I will assume the font will change several times before I find one I like.


Not to sound super lame, but I find artwork should be a labor of love (in a way). Yes, it's business, but at the same time, I kind of hope that the people who are making art really love making art. Even during the sucky times of artist's block. So when I pick up an art book, I want to see the artist really come out in it. 
Really, what it comes down to is pretentiousness. I hate pretentiousness. When I look at this book, do I see you? Do I see your characters? Do I see what you enjoy? Or does it all look like you churned it out to make a quick dollar? 
Did you do a collaboration? TELL ME. I want to know the artists who are in these books. I came across a book once that had like 3 different artists, but there were no names, no descriptions, heck, no captions. It was just a bunch of pretty and similar looking artworks sort of with a theme? Either way, it didn't entice me, so I gently put it back and complimented them on their work and skittered off.


My books and my artwork I think will always be an extension of myself. I can't help it, I just love all my things and I want to give that love to others. I don't think I'll have a problem with this as long as I keep my sense of humor and wits about me! :)

With all these ideas in mind, I set off to figure out just what I wanted in an art book, and how I thought I could use that knowledge to make a product that I'd be proud of and other people would want!

COMING SOON: "I Have Absolutely No Idea What I am Doing" AKA Deciding what to put in there!

February 20, 2014

Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day!

And with that, the picture has been finished! I think I posted it on all my other sites, but I'm so darn proud of it, I wanted to show it here.

Sumi Ini, Multiliners, White Ink (for accents), and Copic Markers all on an 11x14 bristol board. That's right, this is done in markers. :)

...it also reminds me I should probably do a tutorial on how I color these things in...

February 19, 2014

A Tale of a Picture Taking on a Life of it's Own...

Egads, how the time flies! I know I say that a lot, but honestly, I've been really busy over here! So I'll just apologize now for not posting anything here for a week or so.

If you've been keeping up with my tumblrs (karmada.tumblr.com and bytherollofthedie.tumblr.com), you've probably seen previews of some of the work I've been doing. This is the first time I've ever ventured to make a "book" of any kind (you know something bigger than say, a comic book), so I'm kinda learning it as I go along.

I am going to talk more about my process in the next post (I'm writing it this week as well!), but I wanted to warn everybody that next week I'm going to be vanished for quite some time - it's crunch time for Tangerine Wings Chapter 3. I've been a little writer's blocked, and distracted in other ways, so I haven't been able to devote my time to comicking as I'd have liked. Sky's End, I'm looking at you. You will probably start updating in March at this rate. I'm hoping!

In other news, Valentine's Day came and passed, and as a proper artist, I decided "Hey! I should make a Valentine's Day picture". I of course, decided this on the actual Holiday, not actually giving myself time to get it done beforehand. :P

A friend suggested that I do a picture of my FFXIV character and his little baby bird for the occasion, and of course, I was like "OMG THAT SOUNDS SO CUTE!"

Thinking that I'd just do it on the computer, I opened up ArtRage, and quickly sketched out a pose.

I'm getting a little more comfortable with the Cintiq/Tablet work.

I basically wanted to have it be on some sort of gradient, with a Happy Valentine's day message written on it... but as I was working, I started to think to myself how nice it would be if I inked it with my brush. I decided at that point, "Okay! I'll print it out and transfer it, then I'll just use photoshop to make a nice gradient backgro--"

And then I stopped. And realized that I felt like I was wasting the bristol board by just putting a single character on it. It needed... a background. The gears in my brain began to turn, and slowly, but surely, I came to the conclusion he needed to be in ... a candy store.

So I broke out my pencil and sketched out a background on my large printed version.

I then transferred it to the bristol board (then promptly screwed up on the inking and had to re-transfer and start all over again). Then once it was inked, I had to take a break - I had game night and I'd be out of the house, and I was starting to get a hand cramp.

And then it got hilarious. I started coloring the image in the afternoon on Saturday. Later that day, a key colored marker: Mr. E50 died on me. I ran to my nearest Michael's (as the Utrecht store and Greens had closed much earlier that day), to see if they had it. They did not. I tossed it to the side, and went and played XIV instead.

Sunday, Green's was closed completely, but the Utrecht store was open! There was a chance! I gave em a call, and they did not have my marker. Sad. I'd have to wait till Monday to get it and color it in. Only to find out that on Monday my husband borrowed my car, and we still have to put the new tabs on his older car. So knowing my luck, I'd get stopped, so I decided not to chance it (it also doesn't handle the best in winter weather any more). I worked on another project all day instead.

THEN HE CAME HOME. AND WE GOT THE MARKER. My arm was dead from the other project (which I'll be able to announce sometime soon once I finish the other part). I figured I'd just spend Tuesday coloring it in instead. It's only a couple days late, right?

...and that's when we heard our door open and close. The apartment complex had put out a notice that there was another pipe break and they were having a crew come out and fix it. Tuesday morning at 9:30 am - they'd shut off the water. Which means, I could not stay home. I'd have no bathroom to use, no water to drink or cook with. I'd be hoboing it again. And once again, could NOT color the picture.

But today! TODAY IS THE DAY! I'm coloring it in. FINALLY. So here's a preview for you all:

as seen on Facebook. Yeah, the picture is THAT big too.

February 7, 2014

Just a short Shuto Con Update!

For those keeping score, I happen to be vending/attention Shuto Con in the near future!


And in good news, I recently learned that I will once again be presenting some panels at the convention itself! Namely I'm bringing back most of my art panels (the only one not coming back is Art Jam, but that's due to me not really being able to fit in the time for it this year.)

So, for those new(er) to the blog, here's the panels I'll be presenting! I don't have times yet, that usually occurs about a month ahead of the show.

Time in a Box: Tips for Comic Panel Layout
A picture’s worth a thousand words, but a terrible layout only spells disaster! Join Crash Bang Labs for a discussion panel about Comic Panel layouts and composition. Whether you’re drawing a single comic strip or a full chapter book, the tips and tricks in this panel will help you tell your story your way!

Her Legs are HOW Long?
An Interactive Panel on Drawing Properly Proportioned People
Having trouble drawing people, or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn? Join Crash Bang Labs for an interactive panel on drawing human body proportions! The first half of the panel we’ll discuss proportions, and show examples from comics and animation, and the second half we’ll do some follow-along exercises where we draw a basic male and female! Sketchbooks are encouraged, but basic paper and pencils will be available for those who don’t carry art supplies with them.

These are the panels I presented last year, but they're a little longer time-wise than before. Frankly I had to talk like the micromachines guy to get through some of these panels, so I'm giving more breathing room to chat, as well as being able to open up the floor for questions at the end!

I'm also working on tweaking the content of the presentations themselves, updating some of the pictures, adding new ones or possibly new topics. I'll be reviewing them over the next couple of months, that's for sure! So if there's anything you're interested in me talking about, please! Let me know, I'll see if I can fit it in!

Hope to see you there! :)