A long time ago I wrote something I called an experiment in prosetry… It was poetry masquerading as prose, or so I liked to tell myself. I didn’t really do anything with it, but I revisit it from time to time. Recently, mainly since starting my blog, I started thinking about how I might be able to tweak the story a bit and perhaps make a short illustrated story out of it.
I have some visuals in mind for parts of the story, and other parts are less refined. I never seem to have the time to really work on it or sketch anything out like I’d want… but I finally sat down the other day and worked up this one thing.
The idea here is that on the opening splash page, the title of the story would appear as part of the art. It’s a thing you see a lot in comic storytelling, where names or titles are worked into an opening or closing panel of a story. I basically wanted to just see if the idea in my head would work as well on the page. So, I created this mainly as a proof of concept and hopefully to serve as a reminder that I really need to work on the actual story sometime! The design itself might have to be reworked to match the rest of the story art, depending on the style I end up using for that, but I think it mostly works in the way I wanted it to work.
Let me know what you think, and remember, if you’d like an original commission by me or would like to hire me as an Illustrator, please use the Contact page and let me know as much as you can about your request.
I’ve been participating for a while now on the Digital Webbing forums. They have discussions on all areas of comic book creation, and the folks behind the forum produce comics themselves! You might remember them from such things as when I recently posted about their Kickstarter for a Fist of Justice trade paperback that completed on June 1st.
One of their stretch goals was to be a trading card set, for which they had requested pin-up submissions. Unfortunately that stretch goal was not met, though the trade paperback itself was fully funded! I created a couple of variations on a theme that I submitted to them for this project. While it’s possible one of these might see use in a different form in the future, for now I wanted to drop them onto my blog so you have a look at something else I created recently.
Click the images to see larger versions. The core concept is essentially the same in both versions; that being, an action figure all minty in its sealed packaging! I prefer the second version, incidentally. I think the bubble plastic on the packaging looks better, and I added some additional accessories for the action figure.
Please let me know what you think of either version. Remember, if you are interested in requesting my services as an Illustrator, please use the Contact page and let me know as much as you can about your request.
You might not think about it, but your signature can be a logo too. You can simply sign your name of course, and you should on legal documents… but many artists have a stylized form of their signature that they use to sign their finished works. If you have been following my blog since I appeared at the Raleigh Comic Convention back in August, you have seen scans of my sketches that include my signature logo.
For years I had been practicing variations on things that I liked. For a time I thought I might use a stylized version of my initials (SJV) in a design similar to the old Van Halen logo. It looked ok, and I was a fan of the band, but that didn’t really yield a signature that represented anything of myself. As I have said before, your logo represents you and at that point my concept did not adequately represent me.
I was always a good math and science student and was an Electrical Engineering major at NC State University, so in some ways it is odd that it took me as long as it did to come up with this design. It is simple and quite by accident very functional in communicating additional information beyond just who drew the picture.
The integral symbol represents my first initial, the root symbol represents my last initial, and the J fits snugly in there as a variable to the root function. As I settled upon this design and grew to like it, I discovered a happy accident… I could use the lower and upper limits for the integral symbol to represent the month and year, respectively.
So I ended up with a neat little signature logo that identifies me as well as when I completed the work. It also represents the analytical side of me as much as it represents the artistic side.
Do you have your own stylized signature logo design?
For practice and enhancing my portfolio, I have many works-in-progress that are unsolicited, non-commissioned projects that I do just to keep the creative juices flowing. Of course if the parties involved like what I am doing and want to contact me for commissioned work based upon my prototype designs, they are more than welcome to do so!
With Duke University college football back to prominence the last couple of years, I started playing around with a concept to tweak their official logo with a little football flair:
I’ve had an idea in my head that I wanted to get a preliminary design done for an Avengers logo (based on the Marvel Comics title). It’s a variation on their traditional design where I wanted to see how it looks if you essentially merge the first two letters together:
The Avengers concept spawned a design idea for the Marvel Comics logo itself. Traditionally they go with fairly clean lettering so it is easy to read, but I wanted to see what some merging of boundaries between letters would do to the design. Here are a few color variations on this idea:
I have long espoused the notion of being prepared to record every idea that pops into my mind. Ideas can come to you any time of the day or night and might have very little to do with what you are actively doing or thinking in that moment. What I don’t always remember to mention is that your dreams can be a powerful source for fresh ideas.
I have always had interesting dreams. Sometimes I remember every detail vividly, other times I retain only parts. Often the details slip away quite quickly as I wake up so I have to be ready to capture those ideas while I can still recall them. Not every dream is interesting, of course, but enough are that it is well worth paying attention.
What I am finding interesting, though, is just as I began this blog my dreams began to align themselves at times in interesting ways with my daily comic strip. Very often I find myself awake after having a vivid dream that is just packed with ideas for stories that I had not thought of previously. Further… I believe I am learning how to intentionally fuel my dreams.
In pursuit of the next idea, I browse the Web and peruse other people’s blogs. I look to Web sites of interest to me and research various things as they pop into my head to consider as source material. I also have lots of personal stories that come into play when I dip into my real life from time to time.
The concept in play here is to fill my mind with as many varied things as I can on any particular day when I am not actively developing a specific story idea. I want to put as many things into my head as I can, and I want to think about various sources of possible inspiration without trying to put anything together in a particular way. I’m just looking to stuff a bunch of semi-random information into my head.
It doesn’t happen that same night… sometimes not even for a couple of nights… but at some point during the week, I find that I am dreaming of people and places and things that I had been thinking about and when I wake up, I try to capture as much of it as I can before it slips away. Some of my best ideas recently have literally come to me in a dream.
Sometimes I feel like I am cheating. I might spend days trying to actively develop a story, working and re-working everything until I’m satisfied. Then, one night I have a vivid dream of a far better idea and in hours the next day have a stronger new story than the one I had worked many times as hard to complete.
As a result, I am recommending everyone do what I have started to do to fuel my creativity. Find some time everyday to devote to random thought. Think of people, places, characters, and things that interest you. Don’t try to consciously connect the dots and put anyone or anything into any particular order. Just let your mind wander to anything and everything of interest to you and let your subconscious do the heavy lifting for you later. I suspect you might be amazed within a week of the new ideas that come to you in your dreams.
So, you have an idea that has been bouncing around in your head and you aren’t quite sure what to do with it. Or maybe you know what you want to do with it but don’t know how, or where to start. I thought it might be good to take you through a quick process tour of a cartoon I created about 10 years ago. It was an idea that had been in my head for a while until I finally put it to good use.
First a little backstory… I was born in 1970. Back in 1971, a band called Climax had a song named “Precious and Few.” I’ll leave it up to you to look it up and give it a listen if you are unfamiliar. There was a particular lyric that kept hitting my brain in an odd way:
Precious and few are the moments we two can share…
Sometimes I would swear I could hear toucan… and for years that was stuck in my head until I finally decided to do something with it. The butchered lyric was funny, but without a visual didn’t have much oomph. The first decision I had to make was, cartoony or realistic? I decided to go with the Leslie Nielsen delivery. You can look him up if you aren’t familiar with the actor and his work, but suffice it to say serious delivery of a funny line is sometimes funnier than silly delivery of a funny line.
Opting for realism, the next step was to find reference art for my toucans. I had an image in my mind of a couple of toucans perched on a branch having a casual conversation. A quick aside here, many artists use reference photographs to refine their work. I’m not talking about tracing, I’m talking about looking at how things exist and flow in real-life in order to capture the parts you want in your drawing. The Internet is a great tool for finding reference photographs if you don’t have the means or expertise to take your own.
After a lot of searching, I found exactly what I wanted in the ones below. Two separate photographs, but each perched on a stick the way I wanted. Even better, the second one has his mouth open as if caught in mid-sentence!
The next decision I had to make was how to create the art. Since I wanted to eventually compose the final work on my computer, I had essentially three options: Draw everything on paper and scan it in, Draw everything on the computer with the software tools, Use my Wacom tablet for a combination of the first two options.
Each option has their merits. Drawing exclusively on the computer, however, I feared might look too mechanical and not get the realism I wanted for the final look. I also kind of wanted to play with the new Wacom tablet I had at the time, so I opted for the third method. Wacom, or similar, tablets are a nice way to draw with a natural feel but capture lines and curves in a way that you can more easily manipulate later as vector art if you so desire. For this cartoon, the only manipulation after drawing was the use of the fill feature to blacken in the parts I wanted solid. All that was left was to box the cartoon for the traditional single-panel look, and add the caption below it.
So, there you have it… an idea from concept to final cartoon in a snapshot of the process. A special thank you to Jerry of Emerald Forest Bird Gardens for granting me permission to use the toucan photos from their Web site. They have a lot of information about toucans, so I recommend you visit the link and take a look around.
So… you have an idea but you don’t know where to start. When you ask others how to start, the typical response is to “just start” which sounds kind of enigmatic. How do you know where to start if you don’t know how to start? Hopefully that will make a little more sense when I am through here.
When you watch a movie, or read a book, or appreciate a painting it seems structured and organized. The ideas flow naturally from one to the next, and that’s what you want to create. You want your idea to be that fluid and expressive, but you’re seeing the end-product. You aren’t seeing where that project began, but rather where it ended.
Most people make the critical mistake of believing that you have to start at the beginning. You don’t. You can start anywhere you like. You can start with the end of your story if you want. Many jokes originate from the punchline, with the setup being developed to reach that goal. If you try to force yourself to start only at a specific place, you will stifle your creativity.
So, you begin by writing or drawing and making sure you capture any idea that you have. Even if you don’t particularly like the idea right now, make a note of it and keep it. Keep everything together and never throw anything away. Even if you read something you wrote and don’t like it, keep that too.
If you continue to work with your ideas in this manner, you will eventually find that the creation seems to take on a life of its own. The characters begin to almost write themselves. The art defines and guides itself. It’s nearly an out-of-body experience where you almost become a ghost-writer for your own idea, and you don’t feel like you are creating anymore but are merely communicating something that has already actually happened.
This is when you discover you have actually started.
You will be able to go back over all the earlier work and help it fit the story you are telling now. Concepts you didn’t know how to use, or didn’t fit smoothly, you can more easily work with them. You might even find places to use those random ideas that never seemed to find a home. Good thing you kept them!
So, begin now… you aren’t creating your final product from the start. Work from the end, or the middle, or flesh out a character. Keep adding to your creation, even if things are out of order. Eventually your ideas will begin to connect themselves, and that’s when you actually get started!