Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Characters - First Takes

Hey there gang! Buckle up! In this post you'll see early concept work for the characters in the book as well as some finished concept items.

The sketches helped me immensely with the process of arriving at the final style for the illustrations in the book. You can probably notice a struggle in this series of sketches to maintain conformity across the rendering of the character. It wasn't my intention during this exercise of drawing expressions to vary the just happened. It took me a while to realize that perhaps I should begin with creating model sheets for the characters. The sketches below were done after having finished half of the model sheet for the younger brother. They took me a fraction of the time the above sketches did... not only because of the lower amount of rendering on them but because I had a character model sheet to reference. Too much logic for me.

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The character turnaround for the older brother in the story (seen above) is one of the building blocks for consistent character rendering throughout the story. This is one portion of the finished concept work. I will be doing the remaining angles so I have a view of him from his right side as well and I will also be doing a close up of his head in the same fashion. These will act as my primary model sheets for the design of the characters which I will reference throughout the creation of the rest of the book.

The following images are examples of some of the experimentation I've been doing with different mediums. I believe I've set my mind to doing the book using India Ink brushing lines and washes to define the character. I'm still experiment with how I will render the backgrounds and hope to have something done in that area soon. Some really exciting things going on there... I can't wait to share them with you.

The image of the older brother running in utter terror from a pursuing bumble bee is a finished example of how I intend to render the characters. The process marries ink and ink wash analog illustrations with colours done in photoshop on my Cintiq tablet. It's a very fun and interesting process and I love that fact that it combines elements of my fine arts roots with my more recent digital career.

Well, there you go. I hope that you've found this interesting enough to come back for my next post. Until then I'll be finishing the character model sheets and playing some more with background rendering. T-T-F-N... Ta ta for now.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1984? Is that Orwellian?

This post will address a burning question which seems to be on the minds of a few interested followers.

Is the 1984 in the title a reference to Orwell?

The short answer is no, there is no reference to Orwell.

The "however's" are as follows:
  1. I am aware of the fact that people will probably have a recall of Orwell's work upon reading the title.
  2. I am not concerned by this because my story sits in a completely different realm to his work.
  3. I am by no means trying to say that my piece should sit in the same echelon of literary prowess by using the date in the title.
  4. I am, in one sense, counting on people to find curiosity about my book by recalling Orwell's work when they read the title. The more curiosity the better, I figure. When people who read the story because of a curiosity with the title they will find Our 1984 very different from Orwell's work and would be hard pressed to find any intentional similarities.
So what does the title mean?

It is chronological, I was 7 in 1984 and my brother was 9. As I stated in a previous post, the story is somewhat autobiographical...1984 was a year of great significance in our lives. I find it much easier to write about what I know so I'm writing from my experiences as I relate them to that year. The book is about these two boys and how they journey through life together in their waking, sleeping, eating, playing, fighting, imagining ... everything. (Obviously not everything will be touched on in one book -- thus the hope that the first book is successful so I can continue the series beyond Shelter)

There is a second tier to the meaning of the title that I hope people will connect with. It is my intention to invite those of my generation to relate to the title through their own experiences of that year and era. I hope to strengthen this by way of the references, styling of clothing, background objects and spaces. It's my desire that some of us with young children today can pick up the book and feel elated to have an artifact which we can share with them. An artifact that speaks to our experiences from that era. I hope that when they read the title Our 1984, they feel in part it is Their 1984.

I hope that takes a little of the mud off your windshields. Thanks for asking, let's keep the conversation going.

Thoughts on Style

Good morning! I decided to pull a little content off my journal at my deviant art page to add here. It's relevant to the process of this book so I thought it wouldn't hurt to include it here.


From my deviant art journal

So, while going through the process of writing and illustrating a kids book I've found myself wrestling with the issue of "style". I have discovered a few things. A. I'm not 100% sure what my style is B. It can be incredibly difficult to draw characters consistently when you don't have a clear direction stylistically.

I've found a comfortable approach in the past week and a bit. You can see this in my most recent post.

I am happy with the direction of this piece and am pleased with the aspect that it marries analog and digital media. I'm sure as I progress the colouring and final rendering will be given more attention and tweaking.

It's odd because when I look at the direction for the work I feel happy but restless, like I need to push myself more. This feeling is amplified when I look at the work of other artists. I think it's an artist's lot in life to always covet the skill and seemingly effortless ability of other artists around them; past and present.

I heard a great interview that touches on this recently on Sidebar Nation Podcast
The interview was with Greg Manchess, a great painter and storyteller who has been in the industry for 30+ years. Because of his experience and great success I take his words with much sincerity and weight.

He described encouraging his students to be authentic rather than original, stating that if you keep looking to be original and do that which has never been done you will be doing that until you're old and gray. He encourages artists/illustrators/story tellers to be authentic and real about what you love. What's in you is far more authentic and realistic than if you tried to be something else to prove something to the world.

His words hit home with me and were rather therapeutic as I've been struggling to get the feel for my work and always feeling like I don't match up with the artists I love. Perhaps I just need to trust my instincts and work hard at what comes natural to me. It's like I've had a release, a thumbs up to work at what mediums and tendencies come natural to me instead of trying to mold myself to fit a style. Granted, in my day to day I need to match styles as much as I can and actually enjoy pushing myself to do so. (A lot of learning happens when deconstructing other styles or trying to create something in a style that a client requires) In my personal work. This book for example. I will endeavor to be true to myself and work hard to develop based on my tendencies.

Here's to knowledge shared and encouragement gained.

Thanks for listening.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting Started

Welcome aboard! Here you will find a chronicle of my experiences while learning how to create and complete a children's book by doing just that. This site will include posts describing my frustrations (hopefully many so I grow sufficiently) and my triumphs as I endeavour to create the story Our 1984 - Shelter. This story is somewhat autobiographical in nature as it centers around 2 brothers in the guessed it...1984. I'm pulling from my own life experience to put together a story that will hopefully describe the bond between the two boys. It is my vision to have a series of books under the title Our 1984 featuring these two characters, the first of which will be subtitled Shelter.

I've been at the process of creating this book for a good few months now and was inspired by reading the blog Project Waldo. Nate Simpson's blog is dedicated to his process of creating a comic book. I was so delighted to read his posts and glean incite into his journey that I felt compelled to do something of a similar nature here. I hope that my process can be as inspirational and interesting to some of you out there as his has been to me.

Really this process was birthed quite a while back when I was sitting in my basement office working on something visual; graphic design or something. I was listening to a sermon by a preacher in California from Mosaic Church, Erwin McManus. He was preaching on dreams. No, not like riding a golden dolphin in the sky (which my daughter told me she dreamt about), but aspirations, goals, desires. He asked a few questions in his sermon that got me thinking.
  1. Why are you doing what you're doing?
  2. How could you do more of what you love and less of what you tolerate?
  3. What life changes or choices would create the most good from you're life?
  4. Have you allowed God to give you life as a gift to you?
Deep stuff right?! Well that got me thinking about a great many aspects of my life, the relevant aspect here being my career. I think I decided in that moment that I was going to FINALLY do something that I've always wanted to do, create a kids book. I've always loved stories and story telling and love the imagination and where it can take us. In my day to day work I am provided with many opportunities to be creative, but it's always under the pretense of a clients wishes or needs. This book will give me the opportunity to express something other. It will be a vehicle by which I can share some of my childhood experiences, which I believe may touch on a universal level with whomever may read it. By simply doing this book I am already achieving question number two. I love to draw, I love to tell stories and I love to create and challenge myself. Of course in the process of doing number two in the aforementioned list I find life becoming busier...there are only so many hours in a day and I am running a business and have two small children and a wife at home. This brings me to number three. I've recently, painfully, stowed away my playstation 3 and nintendo wii to free up some need time to complete these lofty goals of mine. Oh so painful! Sometimes life requires us to make the challenging decisions and this has been one of them. I'll pick up gaming again at some point but not for now. As for number four, well yes I've allowed God to give me life as a gift but I'd like life with a capital L in my career. Though I will continue to do graphic design (it's great I love it) I truly desire to be an illustrator, this is one small step toward that life long goal.

I'll get to posting some of the visuals of my story here soon. I've got a few roughs and early character concept sketches and drawings that I'll scan and post. I've come to a solid direction for the artwork and have a really clear concept and layout for the book as a whole. Well, the interior that is. I've finished a script and rough page layout which may evolve as the process deepens.

I've yet to do a great deal of research into the process of publishing a book and the question of whether to self publish or find a publisher. I personally would like it if I could find a publisher who would like to take the book on... I think it would be less of a headache in the long run. However as you can probably tell... I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to publishing. I am more than open to people posting advice and comments on this blog. Please, please, please feel free to comment on the posts you see here. I always find that constructive criticism improves the end result of a piece, and I hope in some small way that my journey can become your journey too.

Well. Thanks for tuning in. Here we go!