Monday, November 25, 2013

There Is No Try

Oh, hey, this thing is still around.
Yes, I’ve been neglecting the place more than usual.
No, I don’t have a good reason for it.
Well, in theory I do, but in practice…
Given that it’s November, one might assume that I’ve been neglecting this blog because I’ve been busy working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month.
That’s not the case this year.  For one thing, November kind of managed to sneak up on me, so I wasn’t at all prepared to dive into writing a novel, as I hadn’t spent any time coming up with an idea for one.
However, I did start out the month deciding that I would take the diligence that I normally apply to novel writing and apply it to another project entirely.
That hasn’t really yielded any results.
I suppose that one could say that writing a novel has never really yielded any results either, but at least by the end of the month I had something to show for my efforts.
With this other project?  Not so much.
So what is this mysterious NaNoWriMo replacement, you didn’t ask, because you already got bored and have moved on to look at cat pictures or something?
Well, when I was working on the comic book birthday present for the (former) boss lady, in the interest of time – and laziness – there were some scenes that I cut from the final product, scenes that added to the narrative, but weren’t essential, and which would have required additional pages.
Additionally, in the pages that I did produce I introduced a character whose backstory is hinted at, but not told, and after it was all over I found myself thinking, “I kind of want to tell her story.”
And finally, the limited page count forced me to do a considerable amount of compression, which led to there being pages that were literally filled to overflowing with expository dialogue.
So with all of that in mind I thought, “I should expand this to tell the full story that I’d originally imagined, give the pages some breathing room, tell the backstories, eliminate some of the sillier, in-joke elements, and turn it into a proper comic book that’s available for all the world to see.  Or more likely, ignore, but still, it’d be out there in some fashion.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing all month?
Well, kind of.
In adapting the story for a wider audience, one of the things I need to do is redesign the main character, the one based on the (former) boss lady.
The reasons for this are twofold:

I have a lot of pictures of her to use as references, but not enough to cover the full gamut of expressions and poses, and given that I’m not great at extrapolating things like expressions from a reference image, I need to come up with my own character design to eliminate the need for photo references.

As part of the joke in the birthday gift comic, there are several instances in which the main character appears nude, but some element – someone’s elbow, a word balloon, etc. – obscures it, a la “Austin Powers.”  In the proper comic, those obstructions would be removed, and, given that there would be a wider audience (potentially), if I’m going to draw the main character nude without obstructions, I don’t feel comfortable having her look exactly like the (former) boss lady.

Beyond that, I wanted to try to develop a consistent, simple, and streamlined style for the art, and when I’m engaging in portraiture, the resulting image can be too heavily-influenced by the reference, which – as was the case with the birthday gift – results in inconsistent styles.
So that was the challenge:  coming up with a simplified, consistent style, and designing a character who looks enough like the (former) boss lady for it to be clear that she was the inspiration, but doesn’t look exactly like her, and to develop, for the first time in all the years that I’ve been drawing, a consistent style.
That’s the keep word:  try.
We remember what Yoda said about “try,” don’t we?
It hasn’t been going well.  All attempts at a character redesign have either looked too much like her or not enough like her, and, of course, there’s no consistency to the style.
It doesn’t help that I’m not sure exactly what style I’m shooting for.  On the one hand, I want something pretty simple and clean, but on the other, I don’t want it to look too cartoony.
So basically while I really like their styles, I don’t want to go for the full Bruce Timm or Darwyn Cooke route, thinking that maybe I’d try to compromise with something a little more like the style of Amanda Conner.
However, that doesn’t really suit the tone of the story, so I’ve found myself leaning more towards the style of Terry Dodson.  After all, as I’ve mentioned many times before, when I look at people I can see the “styles” of various comic book artists.  “He’s a Gil Kane,” I’ll say, or “She’s totally an Art Adams.”  The (former) boss lady is a total Dodson.
But then I think about some of the other works that have influenced the idea behind the character and the story, such as Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and I think that the noir style of Phillips might be a good fit as well.
And then I think about Brubaker’s latest – the advanced ads for which, by the way, were part of what pushed me to go ahead and try to do the birthday comic in the first place, as it appeared to be tapping a similar vein – Velvet, and the amazing work of Steve Epting
So, yeah.  Even setting aside issues of talent and ability – which are significant issues – there’s the problem of just not being able to make up my mind.  It doesn’t help that for some reason my own style – or what passes for it – has kind of atrophied over the years as I’ve spent so much time drawing what I see rather than what I imagine, and for some reason the elements of it that show up in my sketches don’t really survive the process of inking and coloring.
In any case, that’s what I’ve been doing.  Or, you know, not doing, as Yoda would say.

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