ads2-29-08I was a big fan of shows like Battlestar Galactica (the first one), and obviously, that costume sensibility is all over my old stuff. I guess it’s a bit masochistic to post old art like this! This piece was drawn as preliminary design art prior to the publication of the comics.

I met the original costume designer for Galactica some years ago, and he was very nice. I don’t remember much about the encounter (we were both convention guests), but I do remember him making a comment about costume design in comics, and how simple the designs were. I replied that the costumes are kept simple in comics so people can draw them repeatedly. This was during a panel, and a gasp went through the audience. I don’t think most people had really given the matter much thought! But consider trying to draw these outfits over about 200 pages or more, and you see the challenge…or the problem. A single character in one graphic novel who appears in just half the panels on that page will be drawn and redrawn at least 300 times per book.

It won’t be too long before most cartoonists just use 3-D modeling programs for all their art. I know a couple of people who do that already, but one told me that the set up costs for his comic ran into about $100,000. Too rich for my blood!

Because my acquaintance designed his 3-D figures on computer, he can just crank out a huge amount of finished work every day, and produces three full color pages a whack. I’m not sure I’d want to go that route. To me, it’s more like computer animation, and the reason I like to do comics is because I enjoy drawing. But I am not sure how well old school cartoonists will be able to compete in a web comics world where people expect full color comics. Many fans really don’t care how the comic was made.

I’m drawing a graphic novel right now – Gone to Amerikay – with minor computer assist. I created a couple of computer models of ships to help me to draw them in correct perspective, but the models are too crude to publish. Basically, they are just outlines for me to follow. I’m not sure I saved any time making the model, because it took me so long to construct the model I probably could have drawn it just as quickly. However, I doubt my drawing would have been as accurate from various angles. Arcs in perspective drawing are hard to pull off…for me anyway.

The best use I am getting out of the computer just now is filing my reference. Having my jpgs at my fingertips and being able to automatically create model sheets is completely new for me. My old computer could not handle this job. I’m figuring out new ways to file and index my images to make them easy to find in my system, and since I have more than 500 reference images on file for the new book – many taken from books and magazines more than 100 years old – I have to have an efficient system.

It’s so easily to misfile a piece of paper, and when you need THAT ship and THAT shot, which accidentally got filed under SHOES…you are in for a day’s headache.

Now, I use my contact sheets to tag the reference that I need for each shot. I write the file name for the image directly on the original art. I no longer have to worry about losing the paper copy of the reference: it is on the computer. I can print it out again if I need to, and can easily find anything filed away by category. If a piece gets misfiled, no worry. I have the file number written on the art. When I am finished with this book, I am going to start moving all the category files onto discs.

Old Photoshop didn’t automate contact sheets, and of course my old computer could not handle programs like Bridge. The new system has made everything so easy, and with all this memory, I can store tons of images.

I know those of you out there in cyberland who have had all these computer bells and whistles goodies for years are laughing at my newbie thrill. But it is a revelation to me how much easier the computer makes my work, even when I don’t use it to draw. I don’t know if I will scan all my clippings files, but it is highly unlikely that I will print out tons of reference photos in future. it’s just too easy to put them directly on a disc, download them, and file the images by category. Takes minutes.

I have 10,000 reference photograph originals sitting in files, and I don’t think they have ever been in order, while the files on my computer are in meticulous order.

I’m also trying something new: inserting art pages and reference into the manuscript document. Never really tried working this way before, but having my thumbnails and reference right there on the script page is pretty neat. Don’t have a clue why I didn’t do this before, but with so much reference, and art pages going through multiple evolutions, this is a handy way to stay on top of each one.

And because I love recycling, me mum and dad figured out a perfect function for old floppy disc file boxes: they are the perfect size for storing seed packets. Now even my seeds are properly stored and alphabetized!