Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

I’m in the middle of writing a story featuring some bitchy female lead characters, and it got me wondering – how bitchy is too bitchy?

It’s important for the characters to be identifiable, so some darkness is okay. I think it makes the reader feel more comfortable reading about someone who has weaknesses and faults just like anybody else. That’s why so many people find Superman so insufferable – physically and morally invincible? Snoresville!

But if the character is too mean and nasty, or cocky, or obnoxious, it gets harder (or just more annoying) to read a story about them. It’s all subjective of course, and sometimes I’ll surprise myself with which characters I will and won’t get behind.

Last weekend I watched Young Adult, which I’ve been dying to see since I first heard about it. It seemed to have all my dreams come true in it –

  • A plot featuring an ex-popular girl, disgusted by news of her old high school sweetheart having a baby and deciding to return to her hometown to wreck his life by winning him back
  • Played by Charlize Theron, a fave of mine (especially when she’s playing a bitch)
  • Patton Oswalt
  • Star Wars references featuring Patton Oswalt
  • etc.

At first I was worried I wouldn’t like the movie because Theron’s Mavis character would be too cringeworthy – forcibly throwing herself into too many awkward situations. I can only stand so many of those onscreen before I have to bury my face in a pillow. (I think I hit my threshhold watching Lisa Kudrow’s awkward antics in The Comeback). Or like when anyone in any movie EVER starts going through someone’s drawers looking for something while that person isn’t home. I will want to rip my hair out. THEY’RE GOING TO WALK IN ON YOU DOING THAT!!

Mavis is unlikeable to a fault. At the beginning, we’re introduced to her pathetic life, holed up in a filthy high-rise apartment with a little rat dog and reality TV on 24/7, desperately clinging to the last remnants of her bitchy powers as she meets with an old high school friend for coffee. Mavis clearly never learned how to take care of herself, care for anyone else, or properly grow up. So when she decides to go on her home-town rampage, it’s comic because we know she can only get so far.

But can she? Part of what I loved about her character was that she managed to surprise me with her level of commitment to the identity she’d created for herself and her insistence to remain oblivious to the world changing around her. After all, at 37 in a dingy apartment with a rat dog she could still go out any night of the week and snag a reasonably attractive one night stand. She could still convince people who loathed her in high school to try to befriend her, even now. She shamelessly manipulated people who were just trying to show her a little kindness and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. And yet, as selfishly horrible and ridiculously, cruelly ignorant to anyone else’s suffering as she was – you still kind of wanted to see her go stir things up and wreck all those hometown lives.

Or maybe that was just me?

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A while back I made some hanging prints called “Spirit Guides”, that featured my favorite film/TV characters, like so:

Spirit Guides

The front lists the character, the back lists the pieces of that character I admire and look to for guidance:


For the next batch, I decided I wanted to do some animal ones, each highlighting a different personality aspect of that particular creature. And since I recently received word back that I’ll be exhibiting at the superfun Spring Bada Bing Craft Show in Richmond, VA on April 15th (woo hoo!), I figured it was a good time to get cracking on some new stuff. I’ll have the hanging versions of these critters available for sale there. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the ones I’ve started. The finished ones I’ll be posting as prints in my Etsy Store as I move along.

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Et Voila!

Since I mentioned in this post, I’m bad at thoroughly planning a project out before I get too excited and want to see it … I’ve updated the main page of my website!

It used to look like this:

….Aaaaand now it looks like this!

I wanted the image at the top to be my latest-and-greatest work, so it will change depending on what I’ve worked on lately and liked. But since it was a picture of my Lipstick & Malice character Nona La Bete, and she was angrily smoking, my friends thought it might give viewers the impression that I was an angry smoker. So I added a little lipstick (as is my custom) and tried to make her look a little happier. I also don’t think it particularly looks like me (hello, she has boobs), but apparently I do have a tendency to slouch.

Let me know what you guys think! I know it doesn’t match anything else on the site yet, but gradually it will. I have lots of plans to redesign my comics pages so they’re much easier to navigate, add a comments functionality, etc. In the meantime, if you guys have any critiques of my current site, I’d love to hear them!

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It’s that awkward time of the year when I want to be on winter break and drawing nonstop, reading Calvin & Hobbes, and playing Donkey Kong on the N64. Alas, for me – it’s back to work this week. But does that mean I have to stop eating cookies and listening to holiday music and generally pretending I’m still on some kind of vacation? I sure hope not.

Well, since as I briefly mentioned last week, my computer ka-putzed, things have been a little hectic trying to get a new machine up and running that will allow me to limp along until I can buy a new one. Luckily my dad is the Frankenstein of computer hardware, so he and my boyfriend rigged up a nice little zombie to get me by.

Just a couple questions I had for YOU all in the meantime, though …

As you know, I have two webcomics going – Gods & Undergrads and Bonnie N. Collide.  As things stand now, Bonnie is usually once-a-week updated and G&U maaaaybe once every two weeks. Now, I know that sporadic updating is the WORST trait a webcomic could possibly have. Alas, with the day job sometimes I find it a little tricky being consistent. So, my question to you guys out there is … would you rather things update once on a semi-weekly schedule like they do now, orrrr update maybe twice a month with more than one strip/page at a time? I know everyone has a different opinion when it comes to their comics, but I wanted to give you guys a chance to chime in.

… Now I’m going to run off and pretend it’s snowing outside or something. December!

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Webby Webby Bang Bang

So I’m working on revamping my website.

Which is a pretty daunting task, considering how much time it normally takes me just to edit one page or (god forbid) revamp the entire concept I have for a series of pages. When you have 291 pages of one single webcomic, the thought of restructuring it usually doesn’t go too far in my head before it hits a brick wall. I could spend 4 hours revamping a series of pages, or actually post a comic page. Or, y’know, go get something to eat.

Over the years I’ve gone through a few design phases, but mainly I’ve relied heavily on image maps.



Image maps always appealed to me because I could switch up the layout, images, and color palette without having to do to much coding around it. I loved the idea of big, bright images that people could click on, rather than having to navigate through tables and text links. But anytime I wanted to change a page, I did it individually, without considering the bigger picture. So my site has haphazardly grown over the years into a bunch of pages that may/may not match one another’s overall theme:

Main Page

Bio Page

Portfolio Page

Comics Page

Store Page

Links Page

As you can see, any sense of an overall design scheme is pretty much nonexistent. Recently, I’ve learned a lot more CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript, so I’ve been itching to redesign it. But if I worked in the way I normally work, it would remain pretty much the same. An updated piece here, an outdated piece there. I’m terrible at stepping back and painstakingly planning a process once I’m excited about something. I want to DO it, so let’s do it! Instant gratification! Yay!

Luckily for me, I attended the HOW Interactive Design conference last week (as I may have over-mentioned already), and it helped me realize the value of putting on the brakes. Since this is such a HUGE change I’m looking to make, I’d like to make sure and do it right. (And by right, I mean the way that I define right, which could very well still include fake links and messed up pages. And probably will.) So, like  a proper grown-up, I’ve started with the first steps. Some sketches of the overall page structure/layout.

Next comes the wireframe, which is a black and white no-frills version of the navigation and what needs to happen.

(Okay, truth – I started the wireframe and then got excited/sidetracked by creating a mood board full of different things that I want to include):

Yep, off to a good start already. But I’ll keep you guys updated on my process along the way, and I’d love to hear if any of you out there have gone through a similar site-wide redesign. Were you able to wait until the entire thing was planned? Or did you just start coding left and right, process be damned?

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Okay, here we go. Let’s do this. Let’s talk about the areas that I really hate drawing, therefore suck the most when I draw them – aka my weak spots.

Horrifying to behold!

As you can tell from this picture, my weak spots are most definitely backgrounds. A lot of artists have areas they particularly dread drawing. Some are hand-phobes, other face-phobes, I am a background-phobe. Filling backgrounds with people and objects and *shudder* perspective never ceases to paralyze me. As you can tell from these next few shots, the beginning of Gods & Undergrads was chock full of poorly planned, horribly executed backgrounds that I really gave a crap about and boy does the sloppiness show …

No, that building angle is not physically possible.

She must've bent that door coming out of it ...

Everything I drew seemed like it’s own little lesson in What Not To Do as an artist. If there was a comic equivalent of Stacey & Clinton, they would haul me off to New York and give me an illustration renovation STAT. Actually . . . who would the comic makeover king and queen of the comics world be? I already have a list going of the hottest comickers. But the ones with the ability to makeover others? Hmm. I smell an industry need, waiting to be filled …

Anyway. So why am I showing you multiple examples of horrible drawing in my own book? Because when you create any comic, or webcomic, or story, or art, or what have you, it’s important to face your fears. Sure, I did a lot of terrible backgrounds (and still do sometimes), but like with the writing, I kept doing them until they gradually got better. Look, at the end of the first book the backgrounds had already improved:


And by the second book? LIGHTYEARS better.

Hey! Is that PERSPECTIVE I see??

I’m not saying I don’t still have loads of work ahead of me in the Backgrounds Arena. But once I realized that backgrounds were just as much an important part of the story as the facial expressions, the color, the dialogue, the outfits, etc. the comic started to evolve just from being an amateur mish-mash into an actual evolving style. One I didn’t plan on, but one that was slowly becoming more cohesive.

Last year, when I started illustrating my first graphic novel for a publisher, my editor gave me some notes on how all of my panel compositions were starting to look the same – headshots, waist up shots, ALL people, all the time. My old nemesis was creeping up on me and not only making me steer clear from drawing backgrounds, but skewing the page layouts of the book too. So was I going to take that shit from backgrounds? Oh hell no. Sure, perspective still boggles my mind and dressing a scene can cause me to break out into cold sweats, but with a little patience, a lot of stress coffee drinking, and this book:

it’s gotten MUCH better.

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Yep, it’s not really Day 4, since Webcomic Week started last week … oh well, continuity blows! … Aaaand also happens to be the topic of this post.

I’ve been writing terrible stories since I was little. Luckily I didn’t let that deter me. I had a screenwriting teacher in college who told us flat out:

Everything you write will be shit.

And she was spot on. But luckily she added:

If you keep writing, it will become less shitty.

That’s the motto I’ve clung to over my years of writing several short comic stories and one looooooong comic story. If I keep writing, in theory the writing gets better. Or, rather, it gets less shitty. I used to think when you wrote out a story, you had to plan everything in advance before you started drawing. This thought managed to paralyze me and prevent me from ever writing fully fleshed out stories. When I started Gods & Undergrads, my detailed plot points looked like this:

  • There is a girl.
  • She is the off-spring of some gods and stuff.
  • She’s going to be at college doing college-y things.
  • Now and again a god will come in and mess everything up.
  • The end.

The inbetweens I wasn’t able to quite figure out until I started writing the story. Occasionally I’d randomly decide upon bigger events I wanted to happen (she breaks her arm, Furies are called, etc.) and then would be able to steer the story in those specific directions. Sometimes I worried that all I was doing was spinning my wheels and putting in filler between big, random events. I kept thinking my job as a writer was to keep the reader occupied and unassuming until BAM! The next plot point came around.

Unfortunately, this resulted in a lot of my earlier (okay, truthfully, and current) work occasionally slogging through some slow parts. In these slogs, nothing much happens plot-wise, but at least the characters do take the opportunity to become more developed and separate their personalities from one another. Intially created out of laziness, over time I realized this truly was a storytelling preference of mine. I gravitate towards stories with a sloooowwww burn, all build up and pretense and atmosphere. And most of the time I don’t even care if there’s a BAM ending (or hell, even an ending at all), I just like to sit and immerse myself in that world for a little while. To me, it adds to the experience of getting into a story. Mm, maybe half that and half laziness.

Over the years my haphazard storytelling method has had to evolve, and I’ve developed a system I’m pretty comfortable with.

  1. The story idea arrives (usually in the car, or during a meeting, or some other time when I’m generally supposed to be otherwise engaged)
  2. I jot down notes, sketches, snippets of dialogue – whatever keeps me thinking of the idea
  3. I start to storyboard (I go into this process in further detail here), and depending on whether or not I have a deadline, I’ll do this right away or take my time
  4. I back WAY the hell off
  5. I return to storyboarding
  6. Repeat steps four and five

Step 4 is what saves me from getting stuck in a story rut or getting bored or throwing shit in the story just to fill it out. I find that if I just physically leave my work, my mind kicks into gear and comes up with way better stuff than if I’d still been sitting there, staring at the paper. The same theory works for me when I draw my pages – if I’m getting bogged down, feeling uninspired, have no clue how to draw this next thing – LEAVE THE DESK. I go get some coffee or candy or let my cat attack me. As the Ghost Hunters say (that’s right, I referenced them): When in doubt, get the hell out.

So whether your method is of the JK Rowling variety (I can’t even fathom the amount of detail she has in her notebooks) or if you’re like me and have trouble staring at Big Scary Story’s Monster Face all at once, there is a method for you. I find the best way to keep yourself motivated is to lean toward your strengths. Do whatever you need to to keep yourself going and being excited about the idea. If you’re no longer excited, switch gears and try something else. Or go let a cat attack you.

Webcomic Week Day 3

Webcomic Week Day 2

Webcomic Week Day 1

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