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31 October 2006

NaNo NaNo...

OK, here's the link to my NaNoWriMo profile. Check in from time to time to see how I'm faring with my novel and read excerpts that I post online. The fun begins tomorrow, and doesn't stop for 30 days, or until I fall over from mental exhaustion, whichever comes first. (Bets are being handled by Louie the Fish with killer odds on me actually surviving November.)

30 October 2006

He's Mad...MAD, I Tells Ya!



I'm going to be taking a break from most posting in November. "Why is that?" you might very well ask. OK...go on....ask.
Well, hot on the heels of my 24 Hour Comics Experiment, I'm feeling the jones for another crazy deadline, and so I've decided to take it on myself to join NaNoWriMo.
For those who might not be familiar with the term, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month...a masochistic little exercise that takes the fun of 24 Hour Comic Day and spreads it over the entire month of November. Except that this time I will get sleep, so maybe I won't suffer the system shock that 24HCD put me through. We'll see.
Now you might ask, "Why, Mike? Why are you doing this?" Ok...I'm waiting...ask, already!
Fact is, I want to write. It is a passion that burns in my soul like a poorly digested chili pepper, and usually does so about 5:30 every morning, when I wake to the strident peal of the alarm clock summoning me to another day of cubicle-dwellership, and I stand in the shower thinking, "There's got to be a better way to make a living."
Problem is, when it comes to writing, I'm highly skilled at finding creative ways to avoid it. If procrastination was kung-fu I would be that blind guy that used to torture the living shit out of David Carradine. Master Po...that was it. Never trust a kung-fu master named after a Teletubby.
I'm serious though...I will go to great lengths to find other things to do than write. I will reorganize my comic collection. I will dust my bookshelves. Repeatedly. I will surf the web until my eyes bleed, then I will surf some more. I will alphabetize my sock drawer...anything it takes to kill the time I should be writing.
None of which is conducive to furthering the kind of hedonistic lifestyle a want-to-be writer should be living. At this point, I should have a dozen novels under my belt and hordes of fans lining up to kiss the hem of my garment each time I walk into Chapters (at least, that's how it goes in my fantasies...another thing I do instead of writing.)
So, I need to break down the blocks. Just like I did with the art process earlier this month, I need to get past my own perceived limitations and, as follow Sean Connery's advice in Finding Forrester:

"No thinking - that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart...The first key to writing is... to write, not to think! "

In November, I am going to commit myself to churning out 50,000 words, or as near as I can get in the time allowed. They may be 50,000 bright lights of genius. They may be total dreck. I may end up just writing the words, "No TV and no video games make Mike something something...." over and over again. I have no idea what I'm going to write about, or what genre it will be in, if one can consider the stream of consciousness I'm going to produce as belonging to any genre. And I'll be honest...I really don't think I'm going to make it. I very much doubt that I'll get out anything longer than a novella. I don't care; that's not why I'm doing this. My goal is to "get the lead out" as it were, and see if I can develop something like a proper work practice by breaking down all my excuses for not working. Wish me luck.

I'll have a space available on the NaNoWriMo site soon for posting a profile and excerpts of my novel in progress. I'll post a link here as soon as I can, but otherwise I won't have much to post here for a little bit.
On a technical note, I'll be doing my writing using the Google's online took, Google Docs. I've already completed a few pieces there under its former name of Writely and I have found it to be a very useful tool. This means I'll be able to update the same document from any internet connected computer, and I'll always have a backup.
As usual, I will be interested to hear or read comments on the ongoing work. Be as harsh as you like, but do try to be constructive.

One final note...there's going to be thousands of people taking part in the event this year....might be a good time to invest in Nabob.

27 October 2006

We're Off To See the Wizard...Way Off.

Recently, Erik "Savage Dragon" Larsen wrote an article for Comic Book Resources about his love of the Oz books and his disappointment with most recent attempts to reimagine the series for comics, with a couple of notable exceptions. I thought it was an insightful piece, especially as I generally agree that "artistic licence" goes a little far sometimes in the way classics such as Oz are treated (or, for example, see American McGee's Alice, a seriously disturbed adaptations of Alice in Wonderland).
What especially struck me about the article was the following comment:

"The pitches I've received almost invariably update the characters and try to make things darker and grittier. Dorothy Gale invariably gets turned into a sexpot and the Tin Woodsman invariably gets turned into a killing machine, hacking up anybody that comes within arm's reach."

It got me to thinking about different ways that an artist could interpret the Oz characters that might be modern without taking the typical sexpot/killing machine route. It struck me that a defining characteristic about the characters is their particular neuroses...cowardice, self-confidence, emotional detachment, etc...and that perhaps reimagining the characters with this in mind might have interesting results. Immediately came the following sketches. Please keep in mind that this is in no way meant to be serious; I don't really want to see Oz done up this way. It's just for fun, and for Mr. Larsen, who might enjoy his Oz a little more neurotic....







19 October 2006

Lessons Learned from 24 Hr. Comics Day...

Well after the fact, here's a few satoric insights gained from 24 Hour Comics Day:

1) Ideas come easy under a short deadline. If I'd had a month to do those same pages, I'd have spent three weeks agonizing over layout, three days avoiding work and watching old episodes of Ren and Stimpy, and the last four days rushing to get the job done on time.
2) Stream of consciousness is a great writing tool. When I started "Why Comics?" I only had a rough idea of where I wanted to go and the concept for the first page. Everything else was made up on the spot.
3) Sometimes you have to forget everything you think you know, and just DO it. Doing this story was almost a zen thing, with little conscious thought about style, technique, form...it was just a race to the finish pulling on every artistic instinct I have spent the last mumblety-something years developing.
4) Taking a few minutes to get your process down cold before you start frees your mind for the creative stuff later on. The one bit of prep I did do beforehand was to be sure I understood the scanning process in IrfanView and the type tool in The Gimp, and record all my settings in a text file on my desktop, so that when it came time to do it, there was no guesswork or fiddling. Just "get 'er done" as they say.
5) Most importantly, when you've just pulled a 24 hour drawing session with a hangover and while running a fever, the appropriate response when asked to go on a walking tour of downtown is not, "Sure, I'd love to." The appropriate response is more like, "I'm going to go fall into a coma now. The first one of you monkeys even thinks about disturbing me, I'm going to end your bloodline right on the spot." Given that I've spent nearly two weeks trying to recover and am currently undergoing something akin to St. Vitus Dance in my central nervous system will testify that this is not a rule to be taken lightly.

I don't think I will be repeating this experiment next year (unless I become financially independent in the next few months, that is...), but may try it at some future point. It was fun and educational, in a Neitzchean "that which does not kill you" kind of way.

Oh...and here's a picture. The ink work is not mine; I just did the colors. Ain't they purty?

07 October 2006

...And That's All She Wrote!

Stick a fork in me, I'm done. Well, I didn't get the 24 pages, but I put in my time, and I consider the experiment a success. I haven't been able to focus on anything so single-mindedly in years. An experiment like this really shows you what you're capable of doing if you push. Hope you all enjoyed, and now I'm off to sleep for a week.
Ta.



I'm so baked at this point, I have no comment to add.



I've just about had it, but I'm not ready to quit yet. Burn down, fall over and sink into the swamp, yes, but quit?...never!



See? I told you there was a reason for it. I'm not done yet...



Now before you start crying "foul", just hang on a minute...there's a point to this; it serves the story. It's not just a time saving device. Really. Hang in there, you'll see...



12 pages done and five hours to go. I think at this point it's pretty clear I'm not going to make the full 24, so I'm going to have to go with the Gaiman variation. Let's see if I can wind this up in an acceptable way...



Sleep? Who needs sleep. Certainly not the people in the walls...or so they keep whispering to me.
In other news, I think I stopped breathing half an hour ago. Send oxygen and Neo Citron.



It's 3 a.m. Everyone is asleep, except me. And possibly the people who live in my walls.....
Tired? Not at all.



Alright...I'm starting to feel a little tired now. And my head cold is really picking up steam. I'll probably just fall over at some point.



Now don't say I didn't warn you...



Halfway there, in terms of time at least. I'm a little shy of where I need to be, but you're going to love what I do to make it up...



Page 6. Lazy? Who's getting lazy? Not me...



Page 5. Yeah, I think I'm starting to get a little surreal now.



Page 4...I think I may be starting to crack. I just caught myself singing along with "Bootylicious". Trust me when I say that I really don't think you are ready for this jelly.
I pulled a little cheat on this page. Think anyone will notice?



A little faster on this page, but there's obviously less detail. I'm avoiding the temptation to skimp wherever possible, though. I don't know if I'll make 24 at this rate, but the day is still young, even if I'm not.



Okay...I seem to be averaging about two hours a page so far. Time to kick it in a bit. Still, no problem....I can do this. I'll just have my narrator get lost in a snowstorm around page 10, then fall into a well around page 15. Easy as pie!



Running a little late, right off the bat, but no worries. This is partly due to router problems, so I might drop offline from time to time.
Anyway, here's page one, all finished...

IM Details

One further note...
I will be on instant messenger throughout the day. You can, of course, feel free to leave a comment on the blog, but if you want to shoot me a message you can reach me at:

MSN: paladinfreelance@hotmail.com
ICQ: 178482634

I may take a little while to respond to anything, but I'll be glad to hear from anyone.

And We're Off....

It's five minutes to noon and time for this adventure to begin. Of course, I had to make this a little more challenging for myself; sometime in the last 48 hours I've managed to injure a foot and acquire a head cold. On top of that, my wife threw a birthday dinner for me last night, so I've got a touch of a hangover to contend with as well. Needless to say, I'm looking and feeling my best. If it weren't for the absence of recreational pharmaceuticals, dangerous technology and loose women, I'd swear that Warren Ellis is writing my life.

Before we begin, a few notes on method. I'll be doing this using multiphasic sleep (aka the Da Vinci method), meaning that I'll be stopping every six hours for a twenty minute nap. I've done this before, and I find that it's good for these short marathon bursts, but I really don't recommend it for long-term use. I figure this ought to keep me from burning out completely and let me make the 24 hours at least, even if I don't make the 24 pages.
Nothing fancy about materials...pencil and ink on a Canson sketch pad. I'll be doing the lettering on computer, because my hand lettering is dreadful, and even more so when I rush it. I do want this thing to be readable.

Finally, a dedication. This is to my daughters, to whom I'm hoping to impart some inspiration, or failing that, a certain sense of life. Also, to my wife, who started me off this morning with a good breakfast and has promised coffee on demand, the latest link in the long chain of support she's provided. With love, this work...good or bad...is dedicated to the three of you.

And now the clock has passed noon, so without further ado...it's go time.

04 October 2006

Well...That Didn't Go So Well.

Hmmm....the message took, but the image didn't.  Let's try HTML formatting and see if that works....
 
 


Nope. That didn't do it either. OK, well I guess I won't be emailing in my pages. Meantime, here's the sketch I was trying to upload....

Test Post - This Will Either Work, Or it Won't

Timing is everything, isn't it? Here I am, two days before the 24 Hour
Comics Challenge...and I've lost my pencil.

Now, that may not seem like such a big deal to you, but to me, it's a lot.
See, I have this mechanical pencil...it's a Rotring...that I bought with my
first set of technical pens for my Commercial Art course in 1988. It's
probably the finest drawing instrument I've ever used...certainly the one
I've learned to use better than all others...and it's been my main drawing
tool ever since I first bought it. Now, when I need it most, it's not to be
found, meaning I'm probably going to have to rely on some inferior piece of
plastic that will feel strange in my hand and not give me the right lead
weight on the page.
Ah, well...as Tommy Hunter once said, "It's not the fiddle...it's who's
holding the bow."

Meanwhile, here's another sketch. I don't know who this bean fellow is, but
it's a fair bet he doesn't like you.

Testing, Testing...

Here's an old page of comic art I dug out of my filing cabinet. At one point I wanted to adapt Harlan Ellison's "Bleeding Stones" and submit it to Heavy Metal. Then I discovered that I just wasn't that good.
Mainly I'm posting this to test my timing and settings on my scanner and The Gimp for Saturday's event. Not too bad I think, a page scanned, lettered and uploaded in 17 minutes. That cuts into the hour a bit, but I took some time out to fiddle around with FreeType in Gimp, so that will shave off a minute or two come the day....

02 October 2006

It's Official!






Well...as official as it can be, anyway.
This coming Saturday is 24 Hour Comics Day, a time set aside to celebrate one of Scott McCloud's brainchildren, the 24 Hour Comic. The idea is to create a full 24 page comic in 24 hours. It's supposed to be a great creativity booster and an opportunity to have some great fun doing comics.
This year, I was hoping that local comics haven Strange Adventures was going to be hosting a gathering for the event, but they're only doing it at their Fredericton store, which involves too much travel and expense for me. Still, I'm going to be taking the challenge. From Saturday noon to Sunday noon, I will be working tirelessly (?) in my studio, creating my 24 hour comic. My own twist on the event is that I'll be posting every page on this blog as it is finished, so you will get a chance to see the work in progress, and be there for every nail biting moment as we find out whether I'm up to the challenge or, like Icarus, will fall from the heights with my ass in flames.
Those who roomed with me in university will remember my marathon all-night to all-week study sessions subsisting only on Wake-Ups and Tim Horton's donuts. This will be my chance to see if the old gipper still has the stuff, and I'm hoping to create a good comic as part of the bargain.
I'll be spreading the word online, and would be grateful if you'd all pass the link to this blog around to a few friends as well, just so I know I've got a little support out there.
I'll be sporadically online via IM throughout the day as well, so if anyone wants to drop me a quick line and applaud my efforts or tell me please, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, just go take a nap, I'll enjoy hearing from you.

I should add that I have thrown down the gauntlet to another artist to take the challenge with me. While he's pretty sure he's going to join me, he hasn't definitely committed, so I can't mention his name yet (you know who you are, you scoundrel!). So throw a few comments up to maybe shame this relentless slacker into pulling out his own stops and going for comic gold.

My own output has been dreadful the last couple of years, both in terms of quality and quantity, and I hope that part of the result of this exercise will be to open up the sluices a bit and get me to bring a few more projects to completion. We shall see what we shall see. If nothing else, I'll be able to say I did it.

Meantime, since this is a sketch blog after all, here's a sketch. I'm not a big fan of Spidey, but every now and then, as with 24 Hour Comics Day, I like to do something a little different.

01 October 2006

Boo-Yah!

Welcome to October! Time to get started working on those Hallowe'en costumes, and it's never too early to start hoarding candy products! Here's a quirky little doodle to help set the mood...