Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Perspective Your Computer Can't Do

A background for a piece I'm working on. So multiple vanishing points that don't match up, curvilinear perspective that kind of torques as it turns around. This perspective is done intuitively without rulers. It is technically wrong, but makes intuitive sense.

Computers Aren't Always Your Best Perspective Friends

I think a lot of illustrators these days are relying on 3D modeling programs for their perspective, and while Manga Studio doesn't do your perspective for you, it has a perspective tool that definitely helps. You still have to know perspective to use these tools effectively if you're going to use them in conjunction with 2D imagery. But sometimes it can look just a little too perfect. A little too geometric. 

We have stereoscopic vision.  Looking at a 2-dimensional image is always going to be like looking at the world through a telescope. I think this kind of distortion isn't always going to be appropriate for what you're trying to achieve with an image, but it does reflect a certain aspect of how we see.

3D Virtual Spaces vs. 2D Illusionistic Spaces

Someone on Facebook asked me recently why I thought we saw things differently in 3D vs.2D. This made me think of 3D animation vs. 2D and the fundamental differences between them.

It's all about depth perception. Two dimensional images have no depth, just the illusion of depth, as if seen from a fixed point. Drawing from life or imagination, you can provide more depth to your images, since you're able to elaborate on the information, exaggerating some of the dimensional aspects of the image, not just obvious distortions, but subtle stuff, like light and shadow, aspects of the picture that a photo couldn't capture.

Much like photography and cinematography, CGI is also very literal in its interpretation of 3D objects. It's a virtual space that complies to many of the essential rules of physics. While the physics of movement is easier to manipulate and exaggerate in a CGI environment, is't not so easy to manipulate the physics of the virtual space itself. Even if distortions are made in the virtual objects that occupy the space, once the camera pans around the object it's very much like a sculpture or three-dimensional object and follows all the conventional rules of how we see objects in a traditional 3-dimensional space.

This is most evident when 3D objects are introduced into 2D animation. There can be a sometimes jarring dissonance between the two. The two approaches create a collage effect. Sometimes this works out. Sometimes it doesn't. 2D animation has such a distinct look because of the unique spacial relationships that can only be achieved with organic and intuitive distortions of 2D imagery.

What About 3D Movies?

That's an illusion, based on the way your eyes combine the two images, but is not truly 3 dimensional. In 3D movies, this illusion is further exaggerated, and with these new cameras that can record stereoscopically they've really perfected it, but it's still an illusion based on two, two-dimensional images. Unless the images track the movement of your eye and point of view, and the images are coordinated with that movement, as in truly immersive virtual environments, you're not truly seeing in three dimensions. And they can't do that in a theater.

Sorry Steven Spielberg, but 3D movies are not the future of cinema. People will likely abandon theaters once they can get a 360 degree virtual view of the world in their homes. Even 2D movies look just as good when you have a virtual giant screen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Appearances And Signings This Weekend In Davis!

The Avid Reader

May 24th, 1pm to 3pm

Signing and Giveaways

617 2nd St, Davis, CA 95616
(530) 758-4040

The Pence Gallery 

For the evening presentation I talk about how I was able to raise money for the publication of my book through a successful campaign on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, my work for Cricket Magazine and how I got started in children’s media. There will also be a live drawing demo. The kid’s presentation includes a drawing activity and instruction.

May 25th

212 D. Street, Davis CA
(530) 758-3370 

For kids ages 4-8 
1 to 2pm 

Family and all ages 
3 to 4pm 

$5 admission fee for each Pence event

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Appearing This Saturday at Bizarro Word!

I'll be appearing at Bizarro World in Davis CA at 223 E. Street at 12 to 2pm, Saturday the 17th for a signing and the official release party for my new book, (Mostly) Wordless! Refreshments, Giveaways, and More!

Insert Your Own Hair Related Pun Here.

A 3 inch by 3 inch commission.

(Mostly) Wordless Needs Your Help!

So all the books and premiums went out in the mail for the Kickstarter supporters, and everyone should have everything they're supposed to get. If you didn't get what you were supposed to get, please let me know and we'll fix it! 

But we're still having trouble getting (Mostly) Wordless out to the rest of the world. So I need your help to get the word out and to help us get into bookstores and libraries. Here's what you can do:

Review Us On Goodreads!

Since the book has yet to be released on Amazon (but it is still available for pre-order!) unfortunately you can't leave a review on their site just yet. But you can leave a review on Goodreads. So if you like the book, it would help a lot if you could leave a review. You can also reccommend the book to your friends on Goodreads. You have to be signed up to Goodreads to leave a review, so if you're not yet signed up, it's pretty easy, and free.

Where Can People Buy The Book?

Though a number of books went out to comics shops, we're having a hard time right now getting the book into bookstores and libraries. First: they don't know it exists yet since it hasn't had much promotion. The other problem is that they can't get it from their usual distributor. We were disheartened to find out that when bookstores tried to order from the largest U.S. book distributor, Ingram, their orders were cancelled. Even comics shops were unable to re-order the book. Our distributor, the distributor that Ingram is supposed to get our book from, is no longer willing to carry it, even though they sold out of every book they ordered from us. There are all kinds of strange reasons for this that aren't really worth going into, but this puts us in a little bit of a fix.
So Here's Where You Can Find it:


While the official release date for the book on Amazon is supposed to be May the 13th, it will take a few weeks before orders will be filled. But you can still pre-order!

Baker and Taylor

If your local bookstore says they can't get it from Ingram, ask if they've tried Baker and Taylor. This is another distributor that should be able to get the book.

Last Gasp

If your local comic shop says they can't get the book, tell them they can get it from the distributor, Last Gasp. most comics shops use this distributor, and Last Gasp has been very reliable for us.

Alternative Comics

The book will always be available from the Alternative Comics retail site, Wow Cool. Status updates and reviews are also posted on the book's official page on their site.
Ask For It At Your Local Library

They can get it through Amazon or any other of the above options! Updates as things develop! 

Thanks everyone, and I'm sorry about all these inconveniences. It's harder to get a book distributed than I thought!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Drawing Little Nemo

So Locust Moon is putting together an Giant oversized anthology featuring different cartoonists doing their versions of Winsor McCay's classic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland called Dream Another Dream.

Winsor McCay is one of my greatest influences. Little Nemo is one of my favorite things in the world. 

When I discovered this my immediate reaction was first jealousy, then envy. I wanted to be in that book. I SHOULD be in that book. Then I saw all the beautiful work being done for the book. Work from some of my favorite cartoonists and illustrators. Like Tantalus looking at his own reflection, I wanted to be there. I wanted to eat this stuff. 

On Facebook I was discussing the book with the amazing Carla Speed McNeil who was going to do a page for the book. I expressed to her both my admiration for what I was sure would be some fantastic work from Carla, and my naked envy for the project. I said that I wished I had the kind of reputation and track record that would have gotten me an invite to do something like this. Carla said that was just silly. They'd love my work. She said it was probably too late, but she'd put in a word. 

Shortly thereafter, Chris Stevens from Locust Moon contacted me. 

It was too late. 

But they were putting together a collection of prints of work that couldn't make it in the book for whatever reason, and that I was welcome to submit a piece. I told him that if I were going to do it, it would have to be something that could stand up well against any of the other work in the book, or it wouldn't be worth doing, and this would take time, and I couldn't guarantee that I'd have it done in time for a print. This may still be the case. In the meantime, here it is:

You're going to want to click to enlarge. It's pretty gigantic.

I think I kicked this one's ass.

But it turns out McCay beat me to it. I must have seen this some time in the past and unconsciously picked up on it. Oh well.

But I think I put my own little twist on things, so I'm content with what I ended up with.

And here's the original line art:

For anyone who knows my working method, I did this in pieces much larger than print size. The water and spout was done about 20"x30". Here's a few figures:

For some reason I just couldn't get the logo to look right, so I ended up tracing it in Illustrator, changing a few things here and there:

I had a great time.

UPDATE: Soon to be a print from Locust Moon!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Nemo in progress

A small peak at much bigger piece. I missed the boat on the giant Nemo book, I'm afraid. The fate of this one depends on when I get it done. Best case, it will be some kind of print.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Mermaid, For a Larger Work

Been experimenting more with splatters and scumbluing.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

We're Living in a Golden Age of Comics and We Don't Even Seem to Realize It (lots of links)

OK. It's time to stop complaining about the state of the comics industry and take inventory of what we have.

First: lets move away from the word "industry" for a moment. Lets replace it with the word, "movement." Notice how, once we stop talking about comics as a commercial enterprise, everything changes. Something magical happens. We start talking about the comics we love. What's being created and rediscovered right now. And if we're going to talk about comics as a movement, instead of an industry, it's impossible not to acknowledge that there isn't a single time in history when there has been this many great and diverse comics available to us.

From the  resurgence of micro press books or zines,

with conventions like Stumptown and Zinefest, Mocca, The Small Press Comics Expo and many more,

to massive hardbound collections of  golden age comics and strips.

Japanese and a growing number of European imports have also been spreading in popularity, including a resurgence of kid's comics which have been absent from the market entirely too long.  


Despite distribution monopolies pushing out the little guy, great comics keep surviving and thriving. Non-genre books, genre books, too many to count. And of course, as in all media, most of it isn't that great. But a lot of it is. For the first time in decades, if I want to turn someone on to comics, I have a true library to recommend just as I would in any other medium. And now Comics are critically regarded in a way that they never have been before.

Webcomics are huge, and may end up becoming the default way to serialize comics, but handmade zines still have currency. You can't mass-produce the silkscreen covers and just plain care that goes into the books produced by micro publishers, so no matter how prevalent web comics become (which is not a bad thing at all) small press comics still have a niche.

Hundreds of great comics are being supported by Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. books that wouldn't exist otherwise, including my own, (Mostly) Wordless (now available on Amazon for pre-order, wide release on the 14th).

Shameless Plug

Dudes, buy my book!
Comics Exist in a Unique Bubble Where Academic Acceptance Doesn't Matter 
(At Least, Not That Much)

And of course distribution continues to be a problem.  Some of the best comics just aren't being seen by the public at large. There are few publishers willing to take a risk on comics with less conventional content. 

But in some ways this is a benefit. People are making comics because they need to make comics, not just because they think they can sell them, a phenomenon that just wasn't happening, at least not like this, in the 80s when I started reading comics. This means many comics creators have modest, or little commercial aspiration. Many comics are made for small audiences for the craft and art of making comics alone.

Cartoonists have to hustle to sell their books on their own at shows and conventions for little financial reward. But these comics are being made for the love of the medium. Since there isn't a structure in place to support these comics in the same way that other mediums are supported, it's the only medium right now where creators aren't likely to get rich from popularity or critical attention. Comics in a unique bubble where academic recognition and art world or literary success is not a big motivator. Grants and gallery exhibitions are rare. Even the mainstream media reviews we see often reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the mechanics and history of the medium. So these cartoonists create for the benefit and enjoyment of diehard fans. I can't think of another medium where this is the case. The result is a purity of vision and lack of pretension that you just don't see in fine art and literature.

While cartooning schools are emerging with more of an academic bent, like SAW and The Center for Cartoon Studies, they still don't carry the creatively inhibiting baggage of hundreds of years of academic analysis.

 But this isn't going to last. Comics are starting to creep into the academic world with all its influences and pretensions. And it's becoming less and less feasible and practical to publish the kinds of lavishly produced books and reprint collections we're seeing now as digital is more popularly accepted as an economical and practical means of consuming media.

So it's time to start appreciating what we have while we have it. Because we're in the midst of a comics renaissance like never before, and things aren't going to be the same for very much longer. Mind you, I don't think it's going to get worse, it just won't be the same. There will be more comics, and good, and even great comics, but as with other progressive movements like modernism, there's only so much formal invention and truly innovative content that can happen within this short and fertile period while this very young medium remains largely unobserved.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Lobster Image for a Larger Work

I know I haven't been posting much, but I have some little projects and big projects in the works, and have been doing what I can to promote my new book, (Mostly) Wordless (available for pre-order on Amazon, and you still might find it at your local comic book store before it's released for the book trade on teh 14th).

Here's something from a work in progress, a small part of a much bigger piece.