So if you’ve followed along with the Blender basics, I’m now going to start to get into doing USEFUL stuff with Blender.
When I first started using Blender it was as a bridge to go from sketchup to clipstudio – I know a lot of artists take sketchup screengrabs and push them into clip studio, but I found having the 3d model in clip studio was a whole lot more useful.
Now, I find myself mostly grabbing 3d models from Sketchfab and then bringing those into Blender to ensure they’re the right scale and then going from there to sketchfab.
Thought you’d like some behind the scenes stuff on Captain Cookies. Readers, did I make mistakes? of course. Will I pointlessley try and correct them several months (actually a full year) after drawing the strip and a month after it saw print? sure, why not.
But first, here’s episode one in glorious monochrome-o-vision…
So let’s take page 1, which I think, has the worst story telling issues (and entirely my fault) basically I should have stuck with my thumbnails for the Dredd bike, suspect I just couldn’t hack the angle. (And the sound effects are misread as coming from Dredd’s bike canon, so I should’ve drawn the weapon on panel 1 to be obviously something else, and moved the “Blams” somewhere they couldn’t be misinterpreted) I sent these pages to Matt in April, so, Chimpsky fans, if you’re wondering, I drew the Christmas Chimpsky AFTER this one was finished, scheduling meant it worked out the other way round in print.
Since I sent it in April it’s logical to assume I was drawing it in March, about a year ago and just as the first lockdown started – so let’s chalk it all up to that – it was rough last year, father-in-law was seriously ill in hospital (almost a year in and out of hospital before covid hit, and then passed away not long after this) kids taken out of school and the whole covid thing (which is, obviously still on going).
I was struggling with drawing traditionally – my eyesight has been constantly a pain since it started going in my thirties (just as my pro career started- thanks karma) and it’s close up work that I struggle with, so believe it or not, I have to tilt the table now not because of the dangers of back pain but because it lets me keep the art the same distance from my eyes whether it’s the top of the page or the bottom. Drawing digitally takes that issue away since I can just move the digital page around as I like.
So this was me pencilling traditionally and moving to digital inks.
(Of course, all of the above reads as an excuse, it’s not – it’s simply background details that can have an impact)
I’ve largely given up on traditional and moved entirely to digital drawing (traditional drawing is a rubbish term, but there’s no better way of explaining it – analogue drawing? actual drawing? nothing makes sense at all)
More Chimpsky to come, readers, and he’s now off in his own little strip, so no more near misses with Dredd – you’ll be pleased to know… (and let’s face it, he may be superintelligent, but he’s been lucky Joe hasn’t just hit him with a heatseaker already…)
Well, another belter of a Kenneth Neimand script, in the form of Who Killed Captain Cookies, and, hopefully, by now you’ll realise the Chimpsky is on the case!
This is a four parter (part 2 this week) and I promise you, it won’t be the last you’ll see of Chimpsky. (though I can’t exactly tell you when you’ll see more of him…)
Here’s the layouts of part 1, I remember the day I did these and it was so much fun to just noodle drawings of Dredd, hence the nutso details on Dredd and the vagueness of everything else. It was also a period where I was struggling with the work generally. Times like that you just sometimes have to trust the craft will get you through. Thankfully, I’m actually feeling pretty pleased with the stuff I’m drawing right now – but you’re unlikely to see that stuff for another year!
Having seen the story in print (and remember, drew this around August?) I think I made page 1 panel 1 & 2 a little more confusing than they needed to be, the thumbs work better here I think.
I’d very much like to try and get this blog into a useful shape again and for that, I think, what I really need is feedback. Even if it’s just to say “Hi I saw your blog” please leave a comment below! And I promise I’ll begin posting more…
If you’re not familiar with “The Pomodoro Technique” it’s a super simple technique for focusing on tasks. The name “Pomodoro” comes from the italian for tomato, and is based on a rather cutsey tomato shaped timer the creator of the technique used. The idea is simple, and it’s this:
You set aside 25 minutes to do a single task. At the end of it, you take a five minute break. Do it again, and repeat until you’ve done 4 sets in a row, then instead of a five minute break you take a 25 minute break.
I find, for the sort of work I do (ie drawing comics) it’s a brilliant way to break log jams. Where I often focus on getting a page done, it’s very much a-can’t-see-the-woods-for-the-trees problem. Focusing on a timer that I draw to, rather than obsessing about whether can draw or not .
I’ve also been playing (for decades really) with a way of figuring out how much time I’ve been spending on pages. So here’s the latest iteration, the target below is pretty simple and represents a single page (you can write the page number in the centre). The first set of segments out from the page, the first inner ring – represents pencils, inks, colours and lettering (or, if you’re me, two segments represent pencils and two inks).
The larger outer ring, divided into chunks of four represents individual pomodoros, in sets of four – I’ve been aiming to do around 16 pomodoros per day – so in total the outer circle represents two days worth of work.
The plan, the guarantee, the thinking, is that instead of worrying about how long a page takes, all I’ve got to do is fill those outer rings as I do pomodoros and boom the page does itself (I mean you’ve still got to draw it, but it makes it – for me – much more manageable)
In this example, page 15 is fully pencilled and I know it took me about 3.5 hours.
So I’ve created a weekly sheet (let’s see how long I keep this up…) that contains a day breakdown of pomodoros as I do them along with 12 pages I could finish in the week (I mean 12 is ridiculous, the reality is, I’ll be happy to get six pages finished in a week, so if you’d like to use this, just remember the extra targets are just there for symmetry and balance on the page rather than actual work you should do)
If you want to use this yourself, it’s scaled at A5 so you can cut it out and stuck it in a diary or just use it on its own (or don’t use it at all!)
Away from home for a couple of days, and so I had a chance to build up a portable studio. There are, obviously, major constraints but that’s ok, I like limits.
Everything fit in a single big bag.
Digital elements on the studio:
iPad Pro 12.9 512Gb, the latest model, with a nice case for it and the Apple Pencil. This case has a fixed cover (I much prefer these kind of things)
I’ve also got a usb-c dongle, which I can plug a mouse in to (for the purposes of this I borrowed my son’s gaming mouse, though it’s a little ostentatious for my tastes – with it’s vegas lighting and stealth fighter looking buttons)
I’ve a neat little Bluetooth keyboard, a separate keyboard with a hardware on/off switch on the bottom. It’s got a nice feel. I like it because it can be placed anywhere – in front of the iPad, or off to the side, so I can use it while digital drawing.
The mouse and keyboard combo means the iPad can act like a normal computer. And, of course, I can just grab it and start drawing, I’ve procreate for colour painting and clip studio.
Big important point with clip studio is remember to pre-download all the files you’re working with. I’ve pre-downloaded the 52 pages of the folklore stories, because trying to do that over a 3G connection is a bit murderous (and would eat up data).
That’s all topped off with my iPhone, and it’s 30Gb three connection which I can easily tether to the iPad (oh, I also have some earphones that plug into the usb-c dongle, bog standard headphones since the iPad Pro no longer has earphone connections)
So that’s the digital stuff, but I still like drawing on paper.
So the traditional tools are a canson 180 notepad – these are great because.- as you can see in the picture, they can be fully opened up they’ve cleverly got a stitched spine that a separate front and back cover, so they can open up without the spine getting in the way. It’s really very clever. Plus I like the paper. This is A4 (my eyesight being rubbish, I used to use the A5 but everything has got to be bigger)
I’ve paired that up with a zebra brush pen (small) – though I should have bought a few more inking tools.
A graphgear 1000 pental pencils – filled with .5 leads (I bought a bunch of .5 HB leads but it turns out not all HB leads are created equal, so I reverse fed a stadler .5 lead into the nib of it, which is a bit darker. We’ll see if we run out of leads)
A Mono Zero eraser pencil. These are great if you’re doing pencil textural drawings and you can use this to pick out highlights.
A Boxy carbon eraser, I like black erasers, they seem to smear less.
And that’s it.
All of that fits in to a fairly sturdy man bag I picked up a few years ago.
Basically I can now do roughs and inks some things, the folklore tales are largely all digital so I can probably do that entirely.
BUT I am supposed to be on a holiday for a few days. So maybe I’ll just sleep. Who knows…
Started with a bunch of different kids and ended up being one based on me experiencing all of this, because, you know, I did…
Green Crisps, even to this day I’m still a little wary over green crisps, I’ll eat them, but I’ll be suspicious.
Pips – oh man, one of my best mates in primary school (age about 7?) was a fella called Paul Brolly who would eat an apple whole, core, pips, the bit of twig if it was there. A feat that would leave me wide eyed. It was fairly plausible a tree would grow from your stomach straight up your throat and out your mouth. This seemed entirely consistent with all the facts, and yet, Paul Brolly defied all of them. He was a medical marvel.
Blue Smarties. I was pretty hyper as a kid, so I’m not sure if I ever remember this one, but I’m certainly aware of it now. (Fun fact: red colouring E120 is made from insects, I’m pretty sure that would’ve blown my mind as a kid)
I can actually remember where I was the first time I was told swallowing gum would stay in your gut. I was about 6 or so, and my mum told me. And I remember thinking “but I’ve been doing this for ages, is all the bubble gum gonna stay in there??”
To this day, I’ve no idea what happened to all the bubble gum in my gut.
John Reppion wrote a fun little essay to go with this week’s tweet here.
Hello sports fan, it’s time for the midweek update.
So, what can I tell you so far: I’ve lost track of the days, I’m unsure what work I’ve done, and I’ve had my second cornovirus haircut and now my hair is a clumpy mess of shaved and unshaved bits.
Ok, on to work:
Last week I finished inking a WWI story that I’ve been doing for a little while (it needs approval)
Here’s a sneak peak:
My original plan with this was to do traditional inking, but time got away from me, so it ended up being all digital. Annoyingly I think the all digital looks better, but it feels less satisfying to do.
Also, on the cards: started ep 2 of an entirely new Chimpsky! Bad news for those Chimpsky haters out there (I know you exist) no idea when we’ll see this but it’s fun to let loose in mega city one again. Also, did a cover for it.
Been tasked with doing a cut out and keep Judge Dredd, so that should be fun!
Couple of days ago the Times ran a Roy of the Rovers story written by Rob Williams, and drawn by me (colours by John Charles)
It’s been a strange month, this. With Judge Dredd: Chimpsky’s Law running in 2000ad, and Judge Dredd: Bad Sector running in the Megazine and then the Roy of the Rovers and, unbelievably, NEXT week finally the graphic novel “The Stringbags” by Garth Ennis and me comes out (ably assisted by Rob Steen lettering, and Kelly Fitzpatrick colouring) and shepared with love and care by Gary Thompson at Dead Reckoning.
Since there’s an 11 page preview of this here, I think I’d be ok to show you a few of those pages unlettered in b&w, right?
If you’re not sick of hearing me talk you can listen to the 2000ad podcast I did last week here:
Oh, if you’re in the mood for WAR stories by me, Rob Williams and I have a destroyer strip in the Battle special coming out on the 19th of September.
I really shouldn’t, but here’s a bit of this too… (which you might have already seen on twitter)
Crikey, that’s been exhausting. I hope you don’t get sick of my art!
I came out of last year a bit worried that I didn’t have much in print to show for the work I did – I think I’d a few little bits from 2000AD (actually about a year ago first Chimpsky strip was printed) and I think the Image Comics Savage Dragon and maybe a few other bits and pieces, and after finishing the graphic novel I wanted to get stuff in print. Anyway, for reasons I don’t quit understand it’s all arriving at once. That’s the way, though, innit.
Ok, paper craft is overselling it. It’s a Judge Dredd standee.
One of my earliest memories of Dredd is building Justice-1 out of computer punch card, and making little Dredd and Hershy figures (these were, doubtless, no where near as good as I remember them being).
Still time moves on, and here I am now a professional artist working on Judge Dredd and you know… I thought it would be fun to go back and do a Judge Dredd Standee and here it is:
Having printed it myself I’d say: don’t stick it to card that’s overly tough! I should probably have added a cutting guide, too. And the little inset cuts should probably only be half the height, with whatever little bits you’re using about half that height too. (And I should probably have drawn those little inset bits too, just for completeness)
I drew this Dredd to fill an A4 page, which is a little big, I also did a youtube video – a 25 minute long, me chatting to myself (and using cues from Richard Herring’s Emergency Questions 1001 Conversation Savers for Every Occasion) to prompt thoughts while I draw. The 25 minute time is the length of a single pomodoro, and I obviously didn’t get the Dredd finished in that time, but it was enough to start, and you can watch it here:
If you enjoy it, would appreciate a like, and any comments you might want to leave – to help me figure out whether it’s worth doing more of these things.
Look, I could beat myself up here, but the reality is no-one could’ve been expected to get much done this month. Dealing with lock down, two kids needing educated, wife working from home and then, after a year long illness that required almost constant hospitalisation, my Father-in-Law went in to hospital, visiting a hospital an hour round trip away, for my wife donning PPE gear, while I went home and looked after the kids was tough through the month, but then, sadly, last week we were told he’d have days to live. He passed away on Monday, his funeral was on the Tuesday.
But, the harsh reality is, I only get paid to complete pages of work, and this month was particularly bad. Last month, by comparison was fairly good, so I’m hoping with a bit of care we can navigate from this month to the next without being too squeezed on income.
(If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the pattern of how it works:
DAY 1: I look for work. (If I’m lucky that won’t take a month, it’ll take a day) DAY 2-30 : I do the work. And invoice for the work. DAY 60: I get paid for the work.
So, that’s a two month gap between needing money and getting money, which is why you’re always trying to keep work flowing. And have enough savings tucked away you can move through any speed bumps)
Now, here’s what I actually drew…
Folklore Thursday: I drew 3 folklore Thursday strips. (I’m double checking that because, wow, I’m amazed I got any of those done). That means I missed one strip, though, for the first time. Understandable, but not ideal.
Judge Dredd: I finished inking a six page Dredd strip, I can’t honestly tell you if I pencilled it last month or this, but let’s say I finished it this month, and that’s what’s important! (because I can invoice it)
Judge Dredd: Finished a cover. Yay!
WWI Story: Finished a cover! Hurrah!
Roy of the Rovers: Drew a one page Roy of the Rovers, it’ll turn up somewhere cool, but I can’t tell you yet.
So, if you’re keeping count, I’ve drawn a total of 9 things I can invoice for, and an additional 3 things I can’t. 12. Easily the worst month I’ve had this year. And certainly, I hope, not a prelude to how this is all gonna shake out.
I’ll be honest, my big hope is I can hold things together long enough to get to the Government freelancer income that will be 80% of my average income over the last three years. That plus whatever work I can find should keep the homefires burning. But it’s a finite time period, after that, the hope is there’ll still be a comics industry, and they’ll still be looking for artists…
I love Clip Studio and have been using it for years, it IS full featured – to a remarkable degree, but there’s things it doesn’t have (and, unbelievably things it used to have too) and here’s my person wishlist:
Auto Actions expanded to include settings for export / print options. I export for two reasons: one is to send preview png files to editors/writers and the other is to send tiff files. I do both from the export menu, but I need to remember the settings between the two – please let me save those settings so I don’t forget and have to redo exports. It’s driving me mad!
Give me a toggle to automatically hide/show draft layers. Clip Studio is smart enough to allow you to ignore draft layers when you use the fill tool (so if you have four layers and a draft and fill on layer three, it will look at the four layers as a complete unit and ignore the draft, super handy for digital inking) – but sometimes i want to see the lineart with the clutter of the pencils, and I have to go to the layers option and turn off draft layers individually (though, if you’re smart you keep all your draft layers in a single folder)
Smarter perspective rulers – let’s see the perspective line you’re about to draw before you draw it – there’s precedent here both Paint Tool Sai and Lazy nezumi Pro (both windows only) allow you to see the perspective line you’re about draw before you draw it (great for ensuring you’re following the same perspective of a building when you’ve drawn it with gaps)
PDF Export on desktop. Come on! I can do PDF export on the ipad but not the desktop. That’s just bonkers.
AI Flatting. Let me select a layer, ask for flats, and get a new layer with flatted fills in one smart go. Come on. Clip Studio in Japanese apparently has a plug in feature and this (or something like it) exists as a plug in. But I’d love it as a standard feature in clip studio. I realise there are people out there earning money as professional flatters, and I suspect they still will – because any automated flatting will never be as smart as a human flatting (esp if you’re working with a colourist for a long time) but for me who does the odd colour job, what I wouldn’t give for an AI flatter.
OKAY ONE MORE BONUS – please for the love of god, give this to me – feature request:
Let me save and share document presets. I use two document presets, 2000AD and US Comics, and every install of clip studio I have to recreate them (and it’s not easy since the numbers try and automatically correct themselves which means you key it in right, but then find the numbers have changed themselves and now you’ve to fix those) every time I recreate presets it’s a 20 minute job laden with mistakes. JUST GIVE ME SAVED/SHARED PRESETS – I can save and share brushes, why not this one thing?
Look there are probably loads of other features missing, and many people will probably think these features hardly matter – but honestly, I think these are things that could really improve workflow.
Now, someone at clip studio, go ahead and do these, thanks!