Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Technique Tuesday January 30: Keep Yourself In Drawing Shape

 Abusing your body means difficulty focusing on your work through physical pain, and can lead to physical difficulties long term. Here's some pointers to remember! 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Revue January 21: Once Stung

What was that?!


It's a classic story. Radioactive insect, bullied kid, great power, witty repartee. Once Stung knows it's classic, and it's a strip that takes self-aware tongue in cheek parody to wonderful places.
For the arachnophobes in the crowd, good news! This time it's not spiders, it's BEES!
The creation of Firebrand128, Once Stung can be read at this link

The Rating

A definite Bee. It's certainly got zing!

The Raves

I'll begin my comments with the humor. This strip takes superhero spoofing in witty and wonderful directions, and it does it in style. All the things you said in your head at the last Marvel movie, this strip says out loud. 
The story begins with an amusingly offbeat action scene and keeps on from there in fairly rollicking style, with a steady stream of jokes and good scientifically calibrated to make the reader grin, especially the reader who's had a bit too much caped crusader in their comic reading diet of late.

Our heroine is Cynthia, and you know the drill. 
She's bullied at school, lives in a metropolis where a lot of the bigwigs work at (*snort, giggle*) Unnatural Sciences Inc. She goes on a science class field trip. One big sting later:
 See what I mean about humor?
The jokes are steadily amusing and exactly what you got shushed at the movie theater for whispering to your buddy, which is deeply satisfying. The art keeps up gamely ninety percent of the time, especially when the action starts.
Throughout the story the characters are mobile and dynamic. The stylization is a good fit for the subject matter and improves throughout the strip, and the character design is really amusing. Just wait till you get to the poor guy bit by a radioactive armadillo. 
The background designs are a mix of freestyle art and stock manipulation, and ninety percent of the time it's quite nicely done. Definitely a fun page turner.

The Razzes

Like I say above, we've got a Bee here. Now here's what to work on in order to make it an A.

Get Clarity

It's all too easy to overdo a style. You thought you were making something visually exciting, and instead it ends up visually confusing. This visual bewilderment happens for a handful of reasons:

*Lighten Up!
Overly strong and over-used contrasts create a visual maze that obscures edges and blends everything into a mess of dark and light, as in the image to the right. Cutting down the contrast by as much as 20% will accentuate the linework and make it much easier to see that this is a girl holding a phone. At the moment the eye takes crucial seconds to sort that out. It would also help to choose a single light source direction and only add highlights in that direction: otherwise the effect is to flatten the image by randomizing light and shadow, which the brain stops reading as light and starts reading as meaningless patches of color.
As a small note, I'd like to see a little more attention paid to facial anatomy.
*Terminate Tangents
A tangent is the technical term for any place where lines intersect to insinuate a relationship in a way that the artist didn't intend. Tangents confuse the eye and make reading slower.
For example, this is a textual tangent:
Pointing the tails of the speech bubbles directly at their speakers would go miles towards fixing this issue.
Tangents really slow your readers down, and that's a great way to lose them.
In order to improve, I'd recommend reading up on them at 
 The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents and at Avoiding Tangents: 9 Visual Blunders Every Artist Should Watch Out For
By Dianne Mize.

*Left To Right, Up To Down For English Readers.
A little more attention to word bubble placement would be good. Currently we get the occasional panel that furrows the reader's brow as they sort out who's talking when. Not good.
*Proof Read!
Typos don't look good on anyone.
Not even gorgeous bee scientists.

Adding a favicon to your website is a lot like a gracenote in a sonata. Just that extra touch of class and polish.
Adding it's easy too: just add this code to your website's html and save your favicon in your website's extra files.

<!DOCTYPE html 
      PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01//EN"
<html lang="en-US">
<head profile="http://www.w3.org/2005/10/profile">
<link rel="icon" 

The Revue

It's the bee's knees when you need a break from Marvel!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Revue January 14: Elsewhere

Grab Your Lightsaber, Here Comes

 Get your geek gear together for an amusing romp through all things college, nerd and pulp. If you need a chuckle, the gag-a-day comic Elsewhere isn't a bad place to turn. Created by Joseph Krejci, the comic is a cheerful blend of all things goofy.

The Rating

The Raves

With plenty of clever visual jokes and a good sense of fun, Elsewhere is the perfect thing to click through to supplement your funny papers. Elsewhere has a great sense of fun and regularly comes up with a lip-twister of a joke, especially for followers of pop culture or the state of human nature.
The art's come an awful long way in ten years, and these days it's quite stylish, with a good classic Sunday-funny-strip color scheme that compliments the material. The characters are cheerful and visually engaging, keeping you amused throughout. And the scenes are often quite relatable.

The Razzes

Elsewhere's greatest stumbling block is with its own indecision. I'd love to see it make up its mind. Is it a gag-a-day strip or a slice of life? If it's a gag-a-day, it could use tightening up on its jokes. For example, this snippet makes a great joke by itself

But the full page is rather unwieldy and a bit clunky.

 Humor needs a quick setup-delivery bounce to it. When a joke gets too elaborate, it becomes heavy and far less engaging than it is in a stripped-down form.

I'd also like to see a little more attention paid to anatomy, especially in the area of shoulders and hands. Granted we're discussing a simplistic style, but arms, shoulders and elbows should still be attached in a natural way and move in natural fashion. The page shown here has examples of the issues: The waving hand is attached to a straight tube, and the pointing hand in the third panel is attached oddly and looks crooked. Attention to details of anatomy like these can take a strip from good to great.
Reference photos might be a good method of improving in this area. I also recommend Kibbitzer's work on Deviantart for cartoonists: they do a lovely job of balancing style and creativity.
I'd also like to see a little more website work done. A ten year old comic shouldn't be without a favicon and a nice banner. This is another touch that polishes up a webcomic wonderfully.

The Revue

Stay in your pajamas, grab your Star Wars cereal bowl and have fun with a little humor and nostalgia a lá Elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Technique Tuesday: Stay Creative!

Every week, your Master Of Ceremony will scout the far reaches of the Internet and return triumphant with an interesting, challenging or useful tutorial for your edification and pleasure. For this new year, here's 40 ways to stay creative by the wondrous Layerform.com.
Please leave comments with your own methods!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Revue: Stellar Persona

Make Sure Your Aura's Cleansed, Because Here Comes

There's a lot to be said for being a good samaritan. Help out a pal with the jitters at karaoke, you'll make a friend for life. Help out a dragon from the stars, you may just get super powers.
That's the jist of Stellar Personae, a sweet and candy colored story of friendship, learning and-yes-cosmic auras with special powers created by Squeakybat.
It can be found on Tapas or at this site. This little darling is a pre-teen adventure Story a la Rainbow Brite or My Little Pony. While that may not be every reader's cup of tea, within this comic's genre Stellar Persona is worth a high rating.

The Rating

There's a lot going for this one!

The Raves

I'll give this work one of my higher compliments: I could see it going into animation. It started out good in art style and it's gotten better with time. The stylization is sweetly and deftly done, creating the cheerful bubblegum-flavored effect of Cartoon Network with the gentleness of the old Care Bears show or, more aptly, Rainbow Brite.
In fact, Rainbow Brite popped into my head quite a lot as this story went on through its protagonists' work to help an injured alien, learn about their powers and find artifacts. Throughout the story readers are shown examples of diversity, supporting friends, teamwork and empathy in the context of a fun and engaging story. Explosions make nice punctuation here and there.

In fact, the alien in question heals through symbiosis with people doing good things, a touch I particularly liked.
There's a nod to the New Age concept of auras, used as shorthand for magic and has a real focus on thematic color, which makes for a really BRIGHT page. Definitely an eye-catcher!

The Razzes

Just a few wrinkles in this lovely game of dress-up need to be ironed out.

I'd like to see a little more attention paid to word bubble formation. For example, the art here looks great; by comparison the bubble looks clumsy.  In fact, most of the issues that come up in this comic are lettering-related. Word bubbles are sometimes visually out of order, making the reader track back to figure out who's speaking. Squeakybat, you're not alone. This is one of the most difficult things to learn in comic work!
My best recommendation is to read the the eminent article Comic Layout Tutorial: The Comic Lettering Spell By Chris Oatley. You'll get a lot of great advice there! Oh, and watch out for typos. I found quite a few on a read through.

The Revue

Definitely handing this out the next time someone asks 'so what do I give my kid to read in comics?'