Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013

2012 was a hard, heartbreaking year.

But here comes 2013. Sounds like a good year to finish a comic book. 

Here's page 2 (lots more coloring to do on this one):



I've got about 3.5 pages to finish inking, and there's still quite a lot of coloring to do. And the clock is definitely ticking louder now due to the mid-May arrival of this little fellow:


I don't know how I will continue Nonplayer after he arrives, but I can't imagine that quitting will set a very good example for him. So that leaves "not quitting," which means it's time to search for some new tricks.

Step one: start having fun again. It's amazing how different it feels to work on something because you can, rather than because you feel you have to. And in comics, as with most things, the amount of fun you're having correlates directly with the amount of radness that shows up in the final product. So how do I find the fun? I don't really know the answer to this one (your suggestions are welcome), but for me, part of the solution lies in letting go of my guilt about the book's slowness. 

Okay, this is a slow comic. Funnily, my first impulse is still to apologize. Like, I just started a sentence with "I'm sorry, but..." Well, darn it. I don't think it's healthy for me to be sorry. I'm bringing a new thing into the world, and it'll be born in its own time. If you think I owe you something, may I suggest you subscribe to Netflix? There's plenty of stuff there to keep you entertained until the rest of Nonplayer is done. 

So let's assume it's fun to work on the book again. The next step is to find time to work on it. Right now I'm putting in an hour every morning before work and another three to four hours before bed. That, and all day every Sunday. As long as the day job persists (I'll address this in a bit), the book has to happen in these in-between hours. It doesn't really pay to rob myself of sleep, especially when I need my brain fully online to do good work. I also think it's pretty important to give myself one day off per week. There are times when I feel like sprinting, but committing to insane hours is a one-way ticket to Burnoutville. Plus, that's a surefire way to kill the fun.

That said, I've had to learn to say "no" to stuff. I can't go out for a beer every time my friends invite me. I don't get to watch too many movies. Games, especially, are a humongous time-sucker. I try to cram as much goofing-off as I can into my free day, because the only other fun I get to have is comic-making fun.

Next, there's the challenge of working efficiently within the time I've got. This has been the hardest and most counter-intuitive lesson for me so far. The more I try to get done in the allotted time, the less quality work I do. For me, rushing has been absolute poison to creativity. All I can do is assure myself that I'll keep setting aside the time, and that I won't allow myself to get distracted or side-tracked during that time. If I end up sitting and staring at a blank page for three hours, that counts as work. I can't shout a seed into sprouting. All I can do is plant it and keep it watered.

It has also been helpful to bring some friends in on the project to provide feedback and hold me accountable when I stray. I've got two people to whom I send a PDF of the entire unfinished comic once a week. Sometimes I just need to hear someone say "good job." It can be hard to keep moving forward when the attaboys are months (or years) away. Van Gogh had Theo, right?

Now, if we're talking life-goals, we need to address this day job thing. I'm aware that becoming a father means taking a step further out into that quicksand, but let's proceed from the assumption that living a happy life means continuing to believe that your goals can be achieved, even if I can't completely see the path that leads from here to there. 

I have a simple goal: I want the freedom to create cool things without subjecting my loved ones to undue hardship.

That means that I need to make as much money doing what I love as I can make working for somebody else. So how might that theoretically happen?

My friend Coop says "Kickstarter." His proposal is simple: estimate the amount of time I need to finish the entire series, calculate how much money I'd have made at my current job over that amount of time, and set that as my goal. And since I live in the United States, add the cost of the health benefits I'd have been receiving over that period, as well. We're talking about a 6-year delivery time and a fairly astronomical funding goal (something equivalent to the cost of a really nice house). I don't know, but unless some rich dude comes along and just throws half a million dollars at me, I'm not really sure this is a workable model.

There may be a more piecemeal solution, however. Perhaps a two-year project to fund a large-format, hardback collection of every two issues. Maybe with some sort of making-of chapter at the end that collects concept sketches and pages-in-progress, so that the volume comes out to 60-70 pages. This is where I could really use your advice. What would you like to see, and at what price? Would a finished book be enough, or would you expect some frills? Posters? Original artwork?

The other path is the one I'm already taking: spend my days at the office, make my nightly offering, and release each issue when it's finished. If that takes decades, so be it. 

Happy New Year, everybody.

Edit: A few readers have interpreted this post as an announcement of my intention to stop releasing individual floppy issues of Nonplayer. This is not the case. Nonplayer will be released as an Image comic as long as Image has the patience for it. In addition, any theoretical Kickstarter-funded album push would also have to be published by Image, and since I have not discussed any such project with them, this whole notion is completely speculative. I suspect they'd be happy if I found a way to work full-time on the book, and if a Kickstarter helped them move more copies, that would be a win for everybody. But none of the above blog post should be construed as an official announcement of anything. Thanks.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nonplayer is still progressing, I'm still alive, it'll get done soon. I'll start posting some images here in a bit.

But the main reason for this post is that my buddy Steve Snoey is making a documentary about a Tyrannosaurus who fought in World War II. You know what? I don't think I can make that sound any cooler, so I'll just repeat it.  He's making a documentary about a Tyrannosaurus who fought in World War II.

Here's the Kickstarter page for America's Fighting Dinosaur. I really hope this gets made, because the few test shots included in the intro video are rad, rad, rad. 


Steve's all about attention to detail -- I love this ID card:


Man, I hope this gets funded. 

More later!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dispatch from the Bottom of the Sea

Come on, Blogger. I know it's been a while since my last post, but do you really have to rub it in by turning into a completely different website while I was away? Seems kind of passive-aggressive.

A lot has happened in the past six months.

I got a day job. I now work at PopCap, the company that makes Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. Easily the nicest place I've ever worked -- good people, fun projects, and so far there hasn't been any crunching. I've met a few astonishing artists there, as well. Times have been hard in the games industry, and one effect of this is that casual games (which are thriving) have become the new WPA for digital artists. There are some very intimidating art muscles on display at PopCap.

What does this work situation mean for Nonplayer? Well, things certainly haven't gotten easier. If you're an employed person who's trying to make progress on a personal project, this blog probably got a whole lot more relevant. I'm trying to carve out thirty hours per week to work on the book. Weekdays go: wake up at 6:30, get to work by 8, leave work at 5, start drawing by 6, take a break for dinner at 8 (which is also my only hour of TV/leisure), back to drawing at 9, keep pushing till midnight, then sleep. For my sanity, Saturdays are family fun days. Sunday, I draw. If I ever get to work full-time on the comic again, I'll probably use the memories of this period as a goofing-off deterrent.

I have discovered one major workflow aid, and it's called the Samsung Series 7 Slate. I won't get into the specifics here -- suffice it to say that the portable Cintiq finally exists. It runs both IllustStudio and Photoshop CS5.1 without lag. It has a pressure-sensitive Wacom screen. Now I can work on Nonplayer at coffee shops, in libraries, and most importantly, on the sofa.

Samsung Series 7 XE700T1A-A02US 11.6-Inch Slate (128GB, Win 7 Home Premium)

If you get one of these, you'll also want to download and customize PaintDock, which creates a touch-sensitive set of shortcuts on the edge of the screen while making the rest of the screen stylus-only. And don't forget to install the most recent Wacom drivers

Also, in an astonishing display of compassion, my wife has learned how to do color flatting. She loves the Slate. She can kick back in front of the TV and color away in comfort. It's a cool device.

So. What else? I've seen some really nifty art lately. May I share?

This guy Mike Bear works at PopCap's San Francisco office. We really want to abduct him and bring him up to Seattle. Then we will boil and eat him, because that's the only way you can absorb another artist's powers. 




Then there's David Ryan Paul, one of my new coworkers. He has an epic beard, in which he stores six technical pens, two Cintiq styluses, and an unknown number of replacement nibs. He's got a very pretty new sketchbook out right now. Daddy like.

David Ryan Paul - Sketchbook Volume Two


Here's another gem from James Harren. I am so annoyed by how good he is. Freakin' 25 years old. 


And finally, there's this guy Alex Kosakowski. He's a game guy trying to fund his first graphic novel, but for reasons that baffle the rational mind, his Kickstarter campaign went fizz. I am really bummed about this, because:


and


and


and


What can we do to fix this? The guy needs a measly $7500. Is there a way we can cajole him into starting another Kickstarter and then force all of our friends to pony up? 

Please don't give up, Alex. Because dang.