Odori Park, by Chris Watkins Odori Park - A webcomic comedy of culture shock in love, life, and family, by Chris Watkins
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:: Posts Tagged ‘experiment’ ::

I blogged the other day that I’m going to be engaging in some art experimentation, playing with different media, drawing styles, and software. My goal is to find a way to expedite my comic making* without sacrificing quality, and maybe have a little fun along the way. I think some of you might enjoy peeking behind the curtain as I go, so I’ve decided to blog some thoughts along the way both here and via my Google Plus account.
* (I now have about two hours available time to give each strip in a typical week. Zoinks!)

Working with different media and styles may be fun, but software is one of the sticky wickets I’m less excited about in this experiment. Of course, it’s a critical component. Long story short: I used to use Photoshop to draw my strips, but I bought a new computer in January, with which my old copy of Photoshop isn’t compatible. I’m a skinflint, so rather than shell out the many clams for a new version, I’ve been exploring alternative applications.

I’ve enjoyed good lineart drawing results from a switch to Manga Studio, but I still haven’t found a suitable replacement when it comes to compositing real-media artwork into the strip template. Monday’s pencil strip is a good example. I didn’t realize it was doing it at the time, but Manga Studio converted all my pencil grays into screentone dots. I think I can get around that, but the other pesky nit I pick with MS is that it won’t let me resize an art file on the fly, so if I need more vertical space for artwork or speech balloons, I have to create a whole new file and drag everything into it.

Wednesday’s pencil strip came out better, but only because I got my hands temporarily on Photoshop for the effort. Even if I continue this way, there are aspects of compositing a pencil strip into my template and workflow that I’m not overly fond of. Case in point: I don’t like the solid black lines of the speech balloons and borders over the softer pencil art.

This calls for more experiments!

Check back on Friday; I think I’m going to try something really off the wall with the drawing style.

So, I figured out a tad more about the Gimp over the past couple days. (Prophetically enough, Mark V. posted on Wednesday a suggestion that I check out the Gimp, as well as InkScape–more on that shortly.) I mentioned last time that I’ve had to explore some Photoshop alternatives, and so I naturally gave the Gimp–Photoshop’s open source cousin–a shot. I just downloaded the latest version–2.8–in which, thankfully, some of my pet peeves (different text weights in a single text string, anyone?) were resolved, but not all, and some new complexities were added. I’m all for learning new software, but not when I’m pressed for time, and not when relatively simple things are made (seemingly) arbitrarily different from my expectations. (Here’s a good example, related to handling of pressure sensitivity.)

Didn’t mean to start out on a complainy tone, by the way. Just wanted to add a little more context to my report on software exploration. The good news is that I now know a little bit more about how to work with the Gimp–I was able to get Friday’s strip composited and prepped totally in Gimp this go ’round. The bad news is it still doesn’t do everything I want in quite the way I want it. The most basic concern may be with line quality–I tried drawing Friday’s speech balloons in Gimp, and they were all wobbly and… icky looking. :) Good news the second, though: I was at least able to figure out how to stop Manga Studio from turning my gray pencil art into screentones, so I could finish up the balloons with those nice smooth Manga Studio lines.

The other big push for Friday’s experiment was drawing style. I had some fun flipping back and forth between Wednesday’s strip and Friday’s; it’s fascinating to me how I’ve stumbled into putting so much detail and precision into my drawings. Friday’s goal was to put some of the “cartoon” back in.

What did you think?

Oh, a last thought, on InkScape. I so wanted to love this program. I started playing with it a couple years ago, and it has done so much right, but I can’t yet get around certain fundamentals. For example, each line I draw becomes a separate object, which makes quickly erasing and modifying those lines challenging, as I have to carefully select each line I want to tweak before I go in with the eraser. (Mind you, I haven’t checked in lately to see if there’s an improvement in the newest version…)

Hey, parting note: If you have insight into any of these different apps I’ve struggled with, I would love to hear from you! :D

Yesterday, MTV Geek posted the second part of my two-part interview with Sean Kleefeld, for their Kleefeld on Webcomics series. Sean and I dug deeper into the ways my art style has evolved over the past four years of Odori Park, both organically and by design. Here’s a link to part one of the interview:
Kleefeld on Webcomics 88
and here’s part two:
Kleefeld on Webcomics 89

I thought it might be interesting for anyone who enjoyed that interview to have something of an index to the various artistic experiments I’ve done over the years, including the recent “artsperiments.” To that end, here’s a relatively complete listing of the wackier and/or experimental things I’ve done in Odori Park to date:

  • Evil Finger - The first strip, drawn in ink on paper, with very little sense of how I’d want to draw the characters going forward.
  • In the Red - The first strip after I decided to take OP online. Note the start of sepia tones here. I was also doing all my inking digitally by now.
  • Utility - I did some streamlining of character head designs starting here, to make them faster and easier to draw.
  • Ocean Lullaby - My first crayon strip. A crayonstraveganza. I got the idea while drawing pictures with my son.
  • Ring 1 - The start of my Ring parody. I wanted a scratchy horrorific look, so I drew these in ballpoint pen on bristol board.
  • Intermission - A pen-drawn strip I did as a filler. I still like the gag, but I shouldn’t have tried to save time by drawing as small as I did.
  • Saccharintastic - One of the few strips with color after my initial run of syndicate submission strips. I felt it needed the color to sell the gag. Being in grayscale the first two panels gives it even more punch.
  • The Beholder - My son did an awesome pirate drawing, and I wanted to include it in the comic.
  • Arts and Cramps - Back to the crayons for this and the strip that follows it. It’s a ubiquitous medium in a house with l’il ‘uns.
  • Little Frog - I played with a brush pen in this story, to give parts a storybook feel. I think my handling of the tool has improved, but it was still a fun experiment.
  • TWCL Awards - A full color strip I did for The Web Comic List Awards. Very shiny.
  • Fright or Flight - A real departure in medium: black house paint on a wall, done as part of a gallery installation.
  • Got the Time - Done as part of the same gallery mural. Maybe the first time I really ignored traditional comic strip boundaries.
  • Daikaiju - I was inspired by the last experiment to break boundaries again.
  • Sketchbook: Fired Up - My first sketchbook run, done very “low-fi” to keep updates rolling while I was traveling with my family in Japan.
  • Quit While You’re Ahead - Crayons, Post-It Notes, and a bunch of other odd materials in this storyline. It started as a way to catch up on time, but turned into a household media exploration.
  • Thoroughly Appalled - This one’s a little more subtle. I tried getting a bit looser in my drawing around this time.
  • The Proposal, Part 1 - I drew this storyline in a book page format, with the longer overall story in mind. I’d planned it for my first book, but couldn’t get it finished in time, so I ran it on the site, instead.
  • In His House at R’leyh - A bit of brush pen and textured paper in this one.
  • The Trouble with Ninjas - More of my son’s handiwork. I couldn’t resist putting this in a strip.
  • Learn Japanese, Part 1 - Inspired by the Draw Something app, I tried fast and loose drawing with blocks of sepia first, then sketchy ink lines over top. I carried aspects of this forward with me, like the rough brush toning.
  • The Yawn of Adventure - To make this storyline look like an amalgam of classic video games, I played with angles and art styles throughout. It was fun, but referencing other art styles always takes me time.
  • Summer Sketchbook: I Don’t Care - Another sketchbook run, but more full strips this time. We had a busy summer this year, after our state to state move, so I played with pencils for a while to catch up. I toyed with the idea of carrying on permanently with pencil, but I like the look of ink lines too much.
  • Fails from the Crypt - I went back to the old ballpoint for this Halloween story, but added in some textured backgrounds for a creepy feel. Note the several font changes throughout the story–byproducts of computer troubles.
  • L’impertinente Lemure - And here’s the start of November’s artsperimentation set. See the blog posts marked “artsperiment” for what I took away from the process!

Hope that was interesting for you. Any thoughts about the choices I’ve made, or suggestions for future experiments? Please leave a comment or drop a line and let me know!

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