Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Update: Art and Stuff

I'm late on my Sunday update today.  I forgot that Saturday is the day before Sunday and therefore I needed to do an update post last night. (Which is okay, I needed the sleep.)

Also since I'm not posting anything else until next Sunday, I suppose being on time with this post doesn't matter so much.

It Started With A Line

Earlier this week I did another illustration for a short story of mine: my Noir holiday story "Deadmen Don't Eat Fruitcake."

I was incredibly jazzed about this image. I have always wanted to be better at that cartoon end of illustration.  This is the sort of illustration I'd like to be doing.  But something usually goes wrong.  It's like my brain gets caught between life drawing (trying to be as realistic as possible) and abstraction, and suddenly it gets all awkward and goofy.

So I've been thinking about base sketches, and look at images online where other artists post images that "show their work."  Both fine artists and cartoonists often start with the same kinds of rough sketching of lines -- some basic geometric shapes.  The difference, though is that in life drawing, you look closely at the model and adjust the geometric shapes to fit the model.  You're concentrating on and drawing the model.

With cartooning, you're not drawing reality, you're drawing what's in your head.  And I finally got the hook that helps me see that: you're drawing the abstract shape.  You're adapting life to fit the shape.  So in that sense, you're not looking at and concentrating on a model.  You're looking at and concentrating on the shape on your paper.

It's sort of how I work with the silhouettes: I start with a blob and then start sclupting it; adding something here and erasing something there; watching the shape itself and building on what's good about it.  (The unfortunate side effect of this is that it comes out rather different than I intend.  Such as Rozinshura -- who is a great bear of a man -- who comes out looking kind of like a pencil-necked geek in the illustrations.)

Anyway, the illustration above started with a line. I'd been looking at a lot of abstractions and I had this vision in my head of a kind of cubist gangster, made out of angles and shapes. I drew a line for the plane of his face, and then the triangle nose, and then a rounded lower lip and a jutting chin....  And suddenly I found myself sketching a character rather than just an abstraction.  All in straight sketched lines.  I rounded the angles when I did the final image so it became a cartoon rather than a design.

Okay, that was cool. What could I use it for?  I thought about the Noir fruitcake story (the only story where I had a classic thug that I could remember).  There were two thugs in that story, so I made a duplicate.  Fussed over how they would line up and be a different color, etc.

But when it came to doing Granny Arbuckle, I found myself doing the awkward child-drawing thing again.  Until I told myself "just do her with the same straight lines and angles you did with the thugs."

And she came out better than they did.

So this has jazzed me out to no end.  But it's also done that rebound thing - where I get so excited that I end up doing my happy dance too long rather than actually sitting down and working.

BTW, that story is in my mini-collection 5 Twists.  It is currently free everywhere but Amazon (It's only 99 cents at Amazon).  Amazon just won't price match it.  This annoys me because the formatting is better at Amazon than the simplified conversion they do at Smashwords. (They might finally make it free if someone complains about it via the "tell us about a lower price" link, but I wouldn't count on it.)

Edit: Now this collection is FREE at Amazon US too. (Don't know about the international stores.) It will remain so until at least January 6,  2014. I may keep it free longer as it works as a "sample" of some of my writing styles. (Amazon international stores: UK, DE, FR, IT, ES, IN, CA, JP, BR, MX, AU.)
Barnes and Noble, Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Smashwords

More Covers

In the meantime, I did two new covers for Self-Pub Book covers.  This first one is a retro gothic romantic suspense cover.  I've actually been working on that for a long time. I was inspired by an old book cover -- the impressed image on cloth hardback cover you find under the dust jacket -- of a book about camping.  I think it looked down through some trees on a camp fire.

I thought it could be kind of spooky, so I created the tree frame -- dark green with a yellow background glowing through that gaping middle.  I had to redo it a few times as I made mistakes. There's a lot of detail in those leaves, so resizing or trying to change a color using the paintbucket (which is the only way to change black to a color -- you can swap one color for another, but black sticks to black) means a whole lot of clean up.

Anyway, I liked putting a running figure in there, becuase there are three suspenseful interpretations.  One: A fugitive, hidden in the dark, gives her location away because of the bright sky behind her.  Two: she's running from the dark forest into an eery bright light area.  Three: she could be running from the light into the scary dark forest.

This other image is another case of going with the shape and then deciding what it looks like: I was inspired to do that sky by a WWI recruiting poster.  The sky was orange and yellow (very close to two of the colors Self-Pub Book Covers allows for fonts -- but lots duller) with streaks of one across the other.  And a slope of the ground in green.  There was a column of caissons and soldiers across the middle of the poster.

But once I'd done that sky in colors that matched Self-Pub Book Covers font colors, I thought I had something more futuristic. Well, retro futuristic.  So I made the ground red (because I didn't like the other color choices there) and added a space ship.

I actually really like this.  I don't read or write many of the kind of sf stories it is suited for, but I think I'll do more covers in this style.  (And just hope somebody else is interested in them.

Both these covers have yet to go through the approval process, but they should show up on SPBC next week some time.  I think they're better than my other covers there, but who knows. You can see my portfolio there at DaringNovelist's Covers.   

In the meantime, have a great holiday.  We'll be back next Sunday with an update, at which time I'll tell you what's coming that first week of December.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Love the cartoon! And the covers, too.

I reported the lower price. We shall see! :)

The Daring Novelist said...


Tanja said...

One should always allow plenty of time for happy dancing, there can never be too much happy dancing :D

The Daring Novelist said...

Snoopy has taught us the joys of the happy dance. :-)