Another joint blog entry for three days. While I didn‘t stop drawing and creating ever, a short but intense migraine kept me from blogging properly the last days. The training with those environment thumbnails is hard, but it seems to pay off already. Creating the new panels was definitely last pain than last week, or let‘s say different pain as I‘m noticing different things to fix or improve on. Especially building in good-looking details into the environment seems like a distant goal. But I will be patient. So far, that strategy has paid off.
I have multiple days behind me where I was fortunate enough to create more than one panel for the comic per day. Roughly a hundred days ago I could not have dreamed of even having a running webcomic. I might have been a different person, in any case a different creative. And I‘m determined to make PREY happen. There are many firsts in terms of problems that have to be solved on the road coming my way. This weekend was particularly dense with them. For the first time, I have drawn several panel variations …that failed. So I have drawn even more panels for the comic than those that you see here, but they were failures, so I put them aside and either edited them the next day or drew new ones. That really never happened to me before. I know that it is good practise to have several options in thumbnails and even work out several of them roughly if it is necessary to unveil the best version of a shot. And you have to be prepared to make cuts.
Then a new idea hit me. For a very long time I was aware of quite some rules and best practises without ever being able to put them into use. The world of my mind and the world on canvas stayed separate. And for a very long time I had no idea why. Apparently, I just didn‘t have the skills to translate it. And I count the trainable parts of my endurance and focus towards those skills as well. I must have wanted too much, just like every other inexperienced beginner. Last Monday‘s environment catastrophe was a blessing in disguise as I actually got a hold of my personal limits and am now in touch with them and building on them every day. That should be this way. Everyone could tell you that this is how you train. It is just hard to actually pull it off like with many other simple things. So the failed panels showed me that I must have improved indeed as the speed of failures accelerates alongside everything else.
As I‘m not in the best state today (but as long as it is enough to hold the tablet pen and at least draw the dailies), I‘ll leave it at this for today. That could be the first summary of my 100 days of making comics experience: I found out where I‘m really at with my skills, found a way of making comics that works for me and grew as a creative in the process.
The last days of comicmaking were so wild that I didn‘t even have time to blog about it. But now that „the worst“ is over, have a report on what happened, what problems I faced and what I did about it.
I have massive problems drawing environment heavy art. That probably kept me from really going into Corvus, the other comic project, in the beginning of the 100 days of making comics challenge. Looking back Corvus has crazy ambitious even harder to pull off environments that require things I don‘t know yet.
So I was already expecting I would need a bit more time on the environment heavy establishing shots of chapter 2 of PREY. And the first days of working on the first shot were terrible indeed. I have my script, I had two versions of the thumbnails ready, but then the first problem was an empty head when it came to translating the simple compositorial view to a sensible fleshed out urban environment.
A well-meaning friend gave me a perspective grid. I don‘t know about you, but perspective grids never helped me. They do not help against an empty visual library. Empty visual library means that you have researched, done, ingested so few of a topic that you have zero ideas about it if you are to draw it relying on your memory and competence alone. The moment I realized that my empty head came from that rather than from perspective problems (there‘s room for these later down the road, I‘m sure of that), I started studying the sort of urban neon lit synthwave-inspired environments I want for my comic like crazy. In the end, I needed 16 studies over 3 days to get anywhere.
So this brought us from empty canvas to something on the canvas. But what about the composition of the shot, the composition of the scene and further requirements for the setting such as hitting the right mood? If things weren‘t ugly enough by now, they got ugly here.
I have a floor map for the scene with paths my character might want to take. I had massive problems translating floor plans into something that is fleshed out in the past. It is surprising to me that I never concluded I‘m just incompetent. You can become competent by experience and that means doing things repeatedly and learning from what doesn‘t work. The empty visual library together with sheer inexperience is a perfect storm of not getting anything done and not knowing why you have no ideas and can‘t. Whatever changed me during the 100 days challenge made me look through that within less than a day.
But understanding what is wrong unfortunately isn‘t enough to make something good over night. You always have that gap of some time that must pass, until the new thought passed down into your hands through mileage in drawing exercise and back up to your brain again as your new standard of what you can reliably expect of yourself.
The next step was a compromise. I am ambitious by nature, but I have built up enough experience already to know when it‘s time to cut corners, and to cut them dirty, to get the job done. My original schedule was having a shot done per day. Inexperienced as I am, I of course had the ambitious idea of composing shot 1 and 2 together, showing a bright, marvellous city core in shot 1 and then sinking down to Rich‘s reality in the bad part of the city in shot 2. I liked that and I imagined I would sketch out both and then render the first one on day 1 and the second one on day 2. Day 2 took 2 days in the end and got the feedback it looks empty. I will not argue against that. Let me just say I had no idea what I was doing and hoped to get it into a presentable form at all.
That is the curse of beginners that people do not stress enough. First of all: you can be a beginner at any subset of things, even within a set of things you are actually good at. Second: if a beginner puts 100% of their energy into something, even to a point they almost self-destruct, the best result they can get out of this is mediocre at best.
That is not meant to discourage anyone. On the contrary! Did you ever give up on something because the first, second, third try looked like garbage? You shouldn‘t give up. You get a better energy to result ratio over time and with more practise. My two shots are okay but for what I was actually aiming, I missed it by miles. The bad part of the city is dirty and run down. I just didn‘t have enough time to learn how to express that and draw that onto the canvas. I have a street. And that is okay for now. If I did not know that even with the 120% of energy I gave and almost self-destructed, my result is normal and to be expected, I would probably feel much different about the result, even be disappointed in myself. Instead I‘m glad I‘m through that and will work my behind off that the next shots, the next scenes will get better and better, always a little bit that I can stem in a day. On a very basic level my planning and execution did work. I composed two shots together and they look good together as one piece. I just did not have the means to express everything that could have been expressed or that I might have wanted to be expressed here. And again, that is okay as a beginner. I trust myself that I will get better following my training regiment.
And just as a footnote: I wanted to make a training plan to work on more of my fundie weaknesses. I did so and tested the first plan. Didn‘t work out for the moment, at least at first try. So I‘m still planning and testing. At least that got me to do some different warm-up exercises than usual. Have an example page:
I think I‘m good with the urban studies for the moment, they cover a lot of what I need more exposure to. Also I‘m currently reading into Burne Hogarth‘s Dynamic Light and Shade again. That is the only book on this that ever reached me. I can lean back, being right as in always drawing realistic shadows is not as important as being able to create the right emotional athmosphere for your artwork. Those overlap most of the time, but they are not a 100% the same thing. The same goes for other fields such as anatomy by the way. Creating something that looks believable does not equal making it hyperrealistic.
What a day! Unfortunately, I had to make a trade-off and have no finished sculpt January piece ready today. After I was repeatedly told my sculpts look soft like butter (and I am aware of this as well), I looked into another tutorial to learn how to make hard edges. I only have a set time per day to work on my sculpts, so unfortunately the extra research and training ate the time up, but I’m confident that I have learned quite something today and already started the next sculpt. Lessons: 1 – It is okay, if things don’t work out at the first, second, or x-th time. Keep trying and don’t stick with the same mistakes every time. 2- It’s also okay to not deliver daily, when you really have to focus and put the time into a work that will be “the first of”. You haven’t established a routine in that yet, so where should fast speed come from?
On the 2D front I have some really cool things for you today! I decided to spend my 2D part of the day with free experimenting around and finishing some things that were hanging in the air.
A piece for one of my favourite discords, the one where I came into contact with vaporwave & synthwave and am spending a great time with great people since we all went through this phase. This maybe will be the avatar of our custom bot.
Recycling of destroyed Blender topology into 2D concept art:
What is also interesting about the piece was the reception. I really have to think about it. If a classical/historical European look seems so authentic when I’m drawing it, does that mean that is one of my true and not I-wish influences and I should expand on it?
Value exercise with a limited value scale on the bright side. I have a tendency to fill a lot of things up with pure black, so today was the day to go the other way and not set any dramatical shadows. Was an interesting experience! Also Dollface! This is an original character of mine who hopefully will get his own comic and you’ll see for yourself what he is all about. These are not my most successful gestures by the way, but I decided to focus on the values this time. The biggest present this simple practise piece made me was that it inspired me to expand and draw Dollface without mask. This is probably the nearest thing to a comic panel I’ve ever drawn. Good progress! The direction is right, I just have to be patient and work on.
About the artist
Styxcolor creates freelance concept art and illustrations. She started the Street Prey Webcomic in 2020 to further explore her love for storytelling.