Monday, May 28, 2007

Deep Red!

Marooned! Cut off from the world! Exiled to an unwired Elba far from Senator Ted Stevens' glorious series of tubes! My home Internet connection is kaput until at least Thursday, and my office computer is all packed up for an impending move, leaving me to the occassional mercies of coffeeshops and libraries to mainatin even the most basic semblance of a civilized life. And just in time for Fist-a-Cuffs to get off the ground, too.

I can only assume this means my productiviy will skyrocket over the next few days.

So, anyway, if you ain't hearing from me, that's probably why.

Oh, and this image is from The Travels of Cadmus, a story that appeared in the 2003 SPX Anthology. It's the last page, so, uhm, SPOILERS?

And that was just the warm up!

Congratulations to Knitty Gritty, Survivor/Champion of the FACA Battle Royale! The main body of the 3rd Tournament should start later today. Oh, Boy!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Have you walked your Zombie today?

I wouldn't say I'm a devotee of zombies, particularily, but when you live in a town like Memphis, you have to take your weird were you can find it. And that's why yesterday found me stumbling through downtown with a clot of fake blood in my hair, in the company of these people:



Yup, it was a Zombie Walk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Calling All Fight Fans!

Fist-a-Cuffs is back with its third tournament! This one is so massive that it's beginning with a four-part Battle Royale to warm up before the regular bracketed matches begin. All entrants emerge from behind a veil of secrecy, so there's the added fun of trying to guess who drew what. Getting any of them right means you spend way too much time online!

Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Two Against The World!

Aw, look at that! December and Elias are zipping around in their Too-Two Twain Engine Mark Two, raisin' ruckus and celebrating the Second Anniversary of my marriage to the Lovely Wife. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, LOVELY WIFE!

For those curious, second anniversary presents break down as follows:
Traditional: Cotton
Modern: Clock
Futuristic: Onctarian Flame Crystal

I ain't saying which way I went.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cops 'n Robbers!

So there I am, standing in my front yard, tending to my little garden, when suddenly four cop cars come haul-assin' down the street, screech to a stop in front of my house, and, hands on sidearms, come running at me.

If regular medical check-ups and concerns about house-keeping weren't evidence enough that I'd crossed over to the long, gray days of adulthood, how about the fact that my only reaction to being rushed by cops was to think "Gee, I wonder I set the house alarm off?"

Anyway, the cops ran right by me, and into my back yard. And then they ran back out and into the neighbor's back yard. And then they ran out and back into my back yard. This went on for awhile. It seems that they had a malfeasant (of the breaking and entering variety) on the run, and he was hopping fences to escape the somewhat winded arm of the law. Cop cars kept piling onto my block, and keystone cast got larger and larger, until they finally got the guy. Many "thumb's up" signs followed. Hurray for justice!

All I actually saw of the Fence-Jumper was a flash of white T-shirt, so this sketch should not be used as evidence.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Victory Calzone!

So, I've reached the age where I don't just go to the doctor when bones break the skin. I need maintenance. During a recent check up, I was informed that, while my general health was at a level that is typically associated with wearing spandex under your clothes, my blood was, basically, gravy.

What followed were some undignified palpatations to make sure my liver hadn't turned into pâté, a second blood test, and a stern admonishment against ingesting any fat whatsoever.

In looking at my diet to eliminate the fat, pretty much all I could find was olive oil and milk fat. It's pretty easy to cut down on the amount of olive oil I cook with, but I'd rather drop dairy all together than eat its various nonfat iterations. And, man, I can live a low-cheese lifestyle, but no-cheese? That is unkind. Especially since friends had just clued me into a really decent purveyor of calzones within walking distance of my house.

On Monday I got the results of the second blood test, and HURRAY! It's normal! Apparently, the first one was a fluke.

Guess how I celebrated?

Monday, May 14, 2007

If my thumb is black, it's 'cuz it's covered in ink (I hope).

This is my garden. We don't have a sunny spot in the backyard, and I didn't want to make a permanent plot in the front yard, so, instead, I'm growing veggies in pots. I started out with three plants: a tomato plant (Early Girls), a bell pepper plant, and a Japanese eggplant. A few weeks later it occurred to novice-me that solo plants might have a tougher time with the whole pollination side of things, and I bought another pepper and eggplant, and—since I was out—a grape tomato plant and two bunches of basil.

I'm a little obsessed with these plants right now. The mundane miracle of a seed turning dirt, water, and sunlight into a great big plant that I can eat is ample subject for hours of mediation while I sit on the lawn, just kinda staring at them. Right now there are two green tomatoes on the big tomato plant, and a little tiny fruit has started to grow on the older eggplant. The older bell pepper has just begun to bloom.

Of course, since they're in the front yard, it's a forgone conclusion that they'll get stolen a day or two before the first harvest. But I'm enjoying the process in and of itself.

Also: You can now pre-order copies of the new issue of Ballyhoo Stories. This is the first issue to carry comics, and I'm pretty danged proud of the line-up of cartoonists presented. They are: JP Coovert, Ray Fenwick, Andy Hartzell, Joseph Holsapple, Simone Lia, and Corinne Mucha; with front and back covers by Paul Pope!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Color Me, pt. 3

In Step 11, I separated out the line work from the background, plunked it down on a new layer, and locked that layer's transparency.



16. Now, I can paint all over that layer, and it will only affect the lines that are already there. This is pretty simple drawing, so I didn't do much: just a gradation from a lighter brown to a nearly-black brown. My recent Medusa post involves a little more coloring done on the line layer. One could push the possibilities of colored line a lot further, but I tend you use it sparingly.



17. Now here's some good fun. This is something I've been playing with ever since crashing Michael Cho's studio a couple months back. After inking the original drawing, I flipped the paper over, and inked some shadows and textures on the back.



18. I ran the shadow layer through stages 2-5, flipped it over, and copied onto a layer between the color layer and the line layer.



19. I dropped the opacity on the shadow layer down to about 20%.



20. And then, after locking the transparency on this layer, too, I painted in some color to the shadows.



21. And then, a little extra tweaking. I used the brush tool, set to a large size and semi-transparent, to add a bit of warmth to the skin, and then I hit the lower face and the right hand with the dodge tool to fade out the shadows. The line around the eyes was changed to a dark blue... just, you know, whatever little adjustments were needed to make the thing feel complete.

And there you go! Three days of blog content from one little drawing! I mean, a coloring tutorial! Hurray! Dragging it all out like this may make it seem pretty involved, but half this stuff is completely rote, and goes by pretty quickly.

If you have any questions, or suggestions, please lemme know!

Now—put up yer dukes!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Color Me, pt. 2

Now, here's the whiz-bang portion of the coloring process. Download these filters: MultiFill and Flatten. There's a demo on their use at that link, and Dean has another one here.

9. With the duplicated layer selected, apply MultiFlat. Make sure it's the duplicated layer. If it doesn't run, make sure you've set your file to RGB.

There are two open fields on the control window for MultiFlat: Join Area and Flag Area. I think I have both of these set to one pixel. If I fooled around with them more, I could optimize things a bit more, but, so far, my experiments have only yielded chaos.



As you can see, MultiFlat fills in all line-enclosed areas with random colors. This was the reason for step 8.



10. Apply Flatten. Flatten gets rid of the black lines, and squooshes the color areas to together until you end up with something like this. The idea is that it's now very easy to select the different color areas with the wand tool, and fill them in with the colors you want.



11. In order to see your full image while working on it, either set the color layer to Darken, so that you can see the black line work through it, or, preferably, copy the line work to a new layer.

To do this, (a) click on the background layer, and then (b) magic wand a bit of the black line. (c) Go to Select/Similar to make sure you get all the black pixels selected. (d) Choose white as your background color. (e) Cut the selection out of the background layer, leaving it all white. (f) Create a new layer above the color layer. (g) Paste your black pixels there. (h) Lock this layers transparency.

Why do all this? It gives you more flexibility, which we will take advantage of tomorrow.

12. Okay, back to the colors. First thing I did was select the tannish color MultiFlat had assigned to the space around our terrible pugilist and deleted it to show the white of the background layer.

13. Then, I selected the color blobs that covered the face and hands and filled in a vaguely fleshy color. There's no need to agonize over your color decisions, just plunk something in there.



14. And then, you can fiddle with the color to your heart's desire by going to Image/Adjust/Hue & Saturation. The control box that opens up will let you turn any color into plumb near any other color, and is a much easier way for me to find the color I like than peering at swatches, because you get to see your color choices in context.

In this case, I lightened the value, and dropped the saturation on the skin tone. I may have nudged the hue slider around a bit, too.



15. Repeat steps 13 and 14 with all the color blobs. Continue, until you pretty much have all the colors where you want them. Proximity to other colors changes our perception of color, so don't be shy about going back and adjusting colors you have already laid down. Once I put the hair in, I went back and lightened the skin up even more.

Done? Nah. If this were a painting, this'd be the stage we'd call "body color." Lots more tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Color Me, pt. 1

In response to some questions about computer coloring, here's a tutorial on the method I've been playing around with lately:

1. Draw the most awe-inspiring murder machine imaginable.



2. Scan it into the computer. Even though it's black and white line art, I recommend scanning it as grayscale art, at 600 dpi (dots per inch, y'all). 300 or even 150 will do, but why skimp? Ain't like pixels cost money.



3. Why scan it in as grayscale? As you can see, even a drawing made with thick black ink on clean white paper actually has a lot of other value information. That is, there's a range of grays. I don't want the computer making judgment calls as to which bits of gray are black, and which are white. It'll get most of it right, but it lacks finesse. Instead, I do that by going into Levels (under Image/Adjust in Photoshop), and move the little arrows around until I have exactly the black and white lines I want. This can take well over 6 seconds.



4. To make sure your lines are absolutely Black and White, convert the image to a bitmap. This is a good time to use the eraser tool to clean up any schmutz.

5. Convert the bitmap back to grayscale.

6. Convert the grayscale to RGB.

If these three steps seem like a run-around, let me explain: Bitmaps are files composed solely of black pixels and white pixels. Converting the file to a bitmap eliminates any little gray pixels you might not have spotted. Your lines are now completely crisp, and this will be a big help at a later stage. But you can't do much editing to a bitmap, so we convert it back to grayscale. This, in turn, allows us to convert it to RGB, which gives us the option of adding color. Once you've re-grayscaled you bitmapped line work, try not to drag it around, or resize it, or rotate it or anything, because those gray pixels will sneak back in.



7. Now, go the Layers palette and duplicate the background layer.



8. On the duplicate layer, take the pencil tool, and use a black line to close off any open areas, such as the hair in this image. Anywhere that two colors will meet in the final image should be outlined. Additionally, switch the pencil to white and open up lines that are breaking up areas that will be the same color in the final piece, such as where the eyebrow overlaps the hair.

More tomorrow!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Almost-Rans, pt. 3

And then, there's MEDUSA MAE'S GRAVEL EMPORIUM.

I've thought for a long time that there is a pretty good character in Medusa. She's basically a young girl who makes the mistake of being raped by Poseidon. This happens in the temple of an easily insulted Athena who turns Medusa into a monster, complete with scaly skin, a beard, brass wings and claws, and, of course, incredibly unmanageable hair. Not only that, but she is sent to live on an island with her new "sisters," the horrible and immortal Gorgons.

And that's that. The island is Outside the Edge of the World, which is pretty far off the beaten track. Medusa wasn't out terrorizing the livestock, or eating sailors, or really doing anything other than wishing that she could actually give birth to her two kids, Chrysaor and Pegasus (apparently, they were trapped inside her when she was monstered).

Then, one day, Perseus is asked to bring an elaborate gift to the king's wedding. He's pretty poor, and says, sarcastically, that he could as easily bring back a Gorgon's head. The king, who is kinda eager to bump Perseus off, says "Deal." Since Medusa is the only one of the Gorgons who is mortal, she's the target. He gets kitted up by Athena (who is not letting the temple thing go), and he's off.

Doesn't that make you want to know what Medusa's take on all of this was?

Not that any of this feeds into this attempt at a Fist-a-Cuffs fighter.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Almost-Rans, pt. 2

After drawing Anachronista, I felt like I needed a fighter with more... implacability. And so, I present THOMAS JEFFERSON'S MONTICELLO!

It is a little known fact of American history that nearly all of the neoclassical buildings designed by Thomas Jefferson were intended to serve as the young country's first line of defense in case of alien attack. Nor that, while new-fangled flintlocks got all the press, baseball bats with nails driven through them were still considered the seasoned soldier's weapon of choice.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Almost-Rans, pt. 1

I've been working on my entrant for the new round of Fist-a-Cuffs. This one occurs behind a veil of secrecy, so I can't show you the character I'm planning on submitting, but howsabout some of the ones I drew on my way to developing the cham'peen?

This is ANACHRONISTA! I like her a lot as a character. It'd be nice to find something to do with her at some point. But she didn't seem to have the bloodlust necessary to dominate the FACA.

Speaking of FACA domination: the heartiest of congratulations to Skin and Bonez for taking the Tag Team Tournament, and for looking so damn good while doing it!

And in Eisner news: local weekly, the Memphis Flyer took notice of my nomination! Thanks, guys!