Monday, January 16, 2017


A Vicky sketch after seeing someone wearing something similar at the station. My pocket sketchbook helps me be a little less precious, including live-inking the background with one of my lesser-used brush pens.

The background text is basically a summary of Coverage Draft's premise, written as illegibly as possible to still remain legible. I wanted to get wacky with the pose and kinda blew it.

Not normal,


Friday, January 13, 2017


This is a mock-up poster/cover for Rish Outfield's fantastic short story, "Rest Stop," which he performs solo on his podcast, "The Rish Outcast," while he's not co-manning The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine or the That Gets My Goat podcast.

I randomly messed around with the snowfall layer and discovered a particularly spooky look here, which I could buy as a final, but it felt just a little too dead-on "horror." I didn't want the image to be too blatant; it had to feel mysteriously sinister, like a sinking feeling something bad might happen.

I initially started with the hag's mug looming over everything, but it just didn't feel correct, so I ended up abandoning this take after checking on and liking the hagless version. I like the empty space building suspense as you travel down the image, plus it allowed for a super subtle face in the snowfall.

Ultimately, it felt more important to emphasize it's the dude's story and the hag is only vaguely part of it, making it feel wiser to keeping her merely implied. The hood was briefly story-accurate brown, before going green-black to blend into the hair/forest/depths, so the hag does still survive into the final image.

This piece involved a little unconventional processing for me. Normally I'd fully draw and color everything then go over with heavier core shadows, but this time, I just colored the rim lighting after getting the figures' structures down. Painting the snow was perhaps my favorite part, it's just so relaxing as always.

Here's the original sketch that started all of this. While listening to "Rest Stop," I kept envisioning a cool/creepy poster like this, and am happy to have been able to translate it into a finished piece. Rish Outfield is an excellent storyteller in the entire sense--that is, a phenomenal writer and performer of story--and his stuff really fires up my imagination, so I'm eager to try my hand at another story.

Not normal,


Wednesday, January 11, 2017


One of my New Years' resolutions was to get a series of comics done this year, so I've begun doing just that, and this was a test run on my materials plus possible post-treatments, such as the straightforward cel-shader above, and the thematically colored shadows below.

I don't have the heart to go totally digital on comics yet, though, maybe I should do something micro to beat the preciousness out of me...

Anyway, I drew these with pencil and G-Pen inks on IC comics paper, and it was a dream...the drawing feels so smooth. I thought I could ink digitally, just doesn't feel quite right yet.

So given these two floating figures, I thought I'd give them a couple rough color treatments, like some red-intensives for the "black and white and read all over" ethos (I don't anticipate any other colors in the actual pages of Coverage Draft), as well as full color.

Ultimately, I just went with the backgrounds I used for the tester images of Fred and Vicky for a kind of mock cover.

All right, I believe that'll do. Paper's great, inks are great, and we're all tested up and ready to draw some finals. Right now, I'm warming up on comics in general by drawing Splinter, but hope to have Coverage Draft under way soon enough, though probably want to do the other short first, too.

Not normal,


Monday, January 9, 2017


It's been rainy in Tokyo, so I've been pretty pumped. I love the rain. So I decided to draw Nyao in New Haven, beneath an arch, with Harkness Tower looming, after looking over some beautiful photos of Yale.

Apparently it's snowing there right now! This concept was also probably a little inspired by my old classmate's film, which just gut punches you with nostalgia if you love Yale and love the rain and love the snow.

Plus this doubled as some relatively quick painting practice. I'm trying to get faster, and I was able to turn this around in about a day, which is great, for me at least.

It was supposed to be a loose sketch, but I keep wanting to go to the next step and develop the piece further, so it's always tough deciding where to stop. Originally I just wanted a few chilly, blue saturations.

But eventually we went to refining the drawing, and then going full color and using post-production effects.

Regardless, this was quite relaxing to work on. Nyao is always there to make things better.

Not normal,


Friday, January 6, 2017


And now the swilling conclusion to our Pan-art series, Pan-Pizza pondering a pint-sized personaje, though did I hear right, he doesn't actually use a stylus?! Take it easy there, Adam Hughes.

His comic, Loki IRL has a couple real-world undercurrents to it, and that's what makes the comic really resonate with me, though the more fantastical elements are neat ruminations on common influences, too.

As for his webshow, it's inspirational how well and thoughtfully he puts his work together. One of the things I hate the most is people passing off poorly-made stuff as good enough, and you see that constantly on the Internet, like people don't even want to try.

Do or do not, but there is no excuse to not-try.

Not normal,


Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Ok, continuing our Pan-art series from last year is ChewPoe from Loki IRL by Pan-Pizza.

One Mehxican to another, I'm pretty sure ChewPoe's name is a pun on chupo from Spanish. Anyway, this was the character that made me want to do this whole series (the previous ones were just sorta warm-ups), because I wanted to try drawing this dude with negative space and detail his mouth with color pencil.

The trick from the get-go was not overdoing this one, or I'd lose the ghostly effect I was looking for. I wanted to color his entire body with the same white pen I used for the stitches, but...that felt like cheating on the negative space restriction, I compromised with some soft shadows near the bottom.

Milky Mint here was the piece right before Chewie, and she was tough because it wasn't quite clear how she was constructed, so I felt more liberty to interpret, but then you don't know what's too far to antithetical.

I knew her being featureless was a defining feature, so I had the Copics do most of her facial definition. Again, the trick here was not going overboard on the figure, though being experimental in the other direction felt right for the background.

I'm not into the Yu-Gi-Oh school of rando shapes and colors as backgrounds, but thought some kind of spotlight/pixel-y vibe might work since she's in media. This was the first piece where I started inking with one of my colored pens, rather than just using it for finishes, inspired by Scott M. Fischer's bold inks.

Ok, Friday's the Pan finale...wonder who it could be...

Not normal,


Monday, January 2, 2017


Even though last time was the last post of 2016, it didn't really register that today is, then, the first post of 2017, so we should actually do an extra spooshal post that I can refer back to later, so here's our first new drawing of 2017, Vicky hanging out with a giant year-of-the-rooster rooster. I was surprised to find this piece represents a good number of my New Years' resolutions. The question is: is this the year of the cowardly chicken...or the proud...cough.

Last year's resolution was big and tediously labor intensive, but totally doable via daily chip-awayism, so I want to use that same guiding framework this year. The goal was simply to get my site up to date after being sparsely updated over the past two or three years. I was able to accomplish that by spring from working on about three posts every day (I'd still been drawing, so it was 80% a matter of posting from my backlog). So with that same, daily chip-away approach towards something big, I want to enumerate my goals, so it's on the record for me to live or fail by. Onward to this year's resolutions, in no particular order.

Goal 1: Draw more digital pieces.
Quantifiable: 1 digital drawing a week.
Today's lead piece is a great example of that. Originally, I had just wanted to draw this traditionally in my sketchbook, but then I kept thinking...this could so easily be digital, and you'd get closer to what you're imagining, why aren't you just doing this digitally? Perhaps the solution is to pencil traditionally and then carry over to digital, since I find going straight digital is often kinda difficult. Perhaps the solutions is to brute-force it 100% digital until it works. One of my mentors says to go digital 100%...I know...I know...

Goal 2: Draw at least 3 comics and some SLSs
Quantifiable: Coverage Draft, Splinter, and Songs About Chie, + 12 Sick Little Suicides.
Normally, I've found that speaking of anything I'm working on tends to be a death-knell for the project, but I'm treating these as chunks of "chip-away" actions. I have scripts and thumbnails for all of these stories, so it's simply a matter of making the pages. This is all chip-awayable...tedious but doable. As for SLS, since it's current events-based, I already know at least one topic I would like to cover, and I imagine it'll be more necessary and responsible to be more engaged going forward anyway, so doing one a month should be plenty reasonable. Splinter's up first, but Coverage Draft's the ultimate goal.

Goal 3: Draw more fan art.
Quantifiable: 1 fan art a month.
I've had super mixed emotions about fan art. It feels like selling out. It feels phony. It feels like begging for attention because you suck too much to earn it yourself with your own stuff. At the same time, I recognize it's part of the "metagame" of making entertainment. I mean, Garry Trudeau mentioned the very same principle that I used to guide my success with ZLM--to paraphrase an interview, he said something like, "People care about themselves, so I drew comics about my classmates, and they loved it."

Can I let you in on a secret? 97% of the time, I don't care about anything so much I want to do fan art for it, even if I love the subject; it's simply a device to rope people into looking at my stupidity. It's me saying, "I bet you this many hours of my life I'll make you care I drew something, because you couldn't care less that I exist otherwise." Cherishing and being inspired by work is usually enough. I express my love by incorporating it into my own work. Just flat out, "Here's Recognizable Reference, fellow young people!" feels so hollow.

When do I feel fan art is tolerable? When it feels necessary. When the love for the subject is simply overflowing to warrant the hours and hours it takes to make a piece strictly about it--not referencing or subtly indicating it, but directly depicting it. When it is so arresting it quells any feelings of "this isn't actually of me." If anything, I feel much better doing fan art to niche stuff nobody cares about or that is out of the popular consciousness because that feels like a fair compromise...cashing in on stuff everybody knows off the top of their head...monkey dance and parlor tricks.

My attitude has to change this year. Or at least, I silently have to stomach doing more blatant, "dance like a monkey" fan art. I write this all out as a marker of how absurd this all is. I don't know if this also means actually throwing the work in people's of the ways I cope with doing fan art is leaving it for people to discover on their own, rather than sending it to the subjects. I dunno. I haven't figured that part out yet. Maybe I have to think of it like a job interview? I don't know if that makes it better or worse...

Goal 4: Study more.
Quantifiable: 30min+ every day.
Basically do more Algenpractice, like pose studies, lighting, color blob, etc. This is one I feel weird doesn't quite feel as firm in my mind...I feel like I learn more from actually doing pieces rather doing arbitrary stuff for the purpose of study, but if he says it Anyway, 30min is shooting low on purpose. Ideally it'd be an hour at least, but I don't want to overwhelm myself as I did last summer...doing straight up studies makes me physically sad after a while, like eating chocolate-shaped vegetables. This may involve joining up with a group...I dunno. Again, this goal is the shakiest.

So that's pretty much it: Go digital, draw 3+ comics, do more fan art, study. These are all doable. They will take tedious, daily work, but we can freaking do it.

Oh, today's Z and Nyao art was our final art of 2016, actually inspired by that one J.C. Leyendecker piece (see, that's the kinda fan art that doesn't feel gross and predatory). I had thought it a good idea to do a traditional piece for our last of 2016, and a digital for first of 2017, as a representation of our overall goals. I didn't think to redo a traditional as digital until finishing the rooster piece traditionally. Anyway, these two pieces finished off my latest pocket sketchbook, so good times all around.

Not normal,


Friday, December 30, 2016


Wasn't sure what to post for the 2016 finale, so I decided to go with something that may be indicative of the art. I've always had mixed emotions about going overboard on fan art, but...2017 will be a year of putting myself outside of my comfort zone. So here is Wavebird from Loki IRL, by Pan-Pizza.

I ended up doing a series of 5 Pan-inspired pizzas. I mean pieces. It all started with wanting to draw one character in particular, who will be up Monday. I have a 100 yen pocket notebook I've been sketching in, and I should be clearing it by New Years' (tonight in Japan), so the Pan series was a nice little send-off for the bulk of the remaining pages, and after that I'll continue the march to focusing on digital...

Before going for the character I really wanted to draw, I decided to warm up with a simpler, more straightforward approach on Bianca, but soon enough I then wanted to try a more full-illustration approach as we moved on to Wavebird here, who is actually the fourth entry in the series.

I thought about working in some of my favorite video games, but settled on just doing a focal reference to Super Smash Bros. Melee, with only vaguely Majora's Mask and Windwaker-inspired blobs in the far background, in order not to detract with too busy of a background. The lower showcase has vaguely amiibo-like figures and a vaguely Pokemon poster, and the upper background is just riffing on a Gamestop photo since there don't seem to be any interiors of Game Splitters proper.

Here's what kicked off the "Kids Love It" series, Bianca, the heroine of Loki IRL. The background's negative space is supposed to suggest Loki. Clever right? Of course not. Obviously her more realistic trials and tribulations resonate with me...I wasn't laughed out of SD Comic-Con reviews or anything, but I didn't walk away victorious either, just sorta "k." Well, "Good stuff, keep it up!" What do you do with that?

Tokyo Comic Con was similar, though there was no dedicated review area, just casual talks if the artists had any time. The show was so tiny and only 1 or 2 tables saw any real swarming, with almost no rando review-seekers apart from me. I couldn't help but think it bewildering when any artists weren't willing to review. I've worked on the other side of the table as an assistant three times now here in Japan, and while I know how taxing a show can be...Tokyo Comic Con was not at that marathon, non-stop-people level.

Anyway, what were talking about? Oh right. More fan art in 2017. I'm happy we met our 2016 resolution for the most part (a couple pieces are still WIP) to get the site up to date, after the sparsely updated past couple years. So 2017's resolution is to continue staying current, do more fan art, focus more on digital, and most importantly(?) get at least three comics up, chiefly Coverage Draft, but also Splinter and Songs About Chie plus some SLSs. For now, the Kids Love It series will continue on for the next two posts.

Not normal,


Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Continuing our Christmas sketch card series from last time, now we have Zero, but dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge, expanding on the hat theme.

Since he's our main dude, I wanted to make his portrait a little more special so I gave him a full costume, but also a little wreath noose.

I chose Scrooge because Z's a bitter, bitter dude befitting a "bah humbug" vibe, though ultimately, it does irk a little that he's the only one in full costume and portrait.

I wasn't sure what costume would best complement Z's for Nyao, but I didn't want to draw her as Tiny Tim or a ghost or something so I just went with the only thematically-appropriate "hat" that I could think of: reindeer antlers, which felt apt because it's animal-themed.

Hmm, maybe Z could have just gone with a top hat and pipe, so he's like a snowman? Anyway, Nyao's outfit was inspired by the Oakland A's...I've always loved how yellow and green look together.

Since Nyao is super strong, I gave her the bag of presents, plus she gets a cookie because I imagine she's eager to take the spoils of doing the work of distributing joy.

Not normal,


Monday, December 26, 2016


I decided to draw some Christmas-themed Copic portraits of my main characters in my little 100yen pocket sketchbook, first up Vicky Vasquez.

This came out a little more somber than I was envisioning, but, as I'm discovering, they kind of tell me what's going on as I draw them...she's a workaholic so she doesn't like being forced to take time off in December.

So she's kinda in shellshock mode without the constant buzzing and bustle of her regular work "life" to fall back on.

Next was Fred, which is a revamp of his first color scheme, based on a sketch from a random session.

This piece determined what I wanted to do with this little series: corresponding, minimally busy backgrounds using red or green, with a Christmas-themed hat.

Usually the guy of the pair is Santa and the girl is the elf, so I thought it'd be funny to switch it around since Vicky's the boss anyway. So, having done these relatively more straightforward shots, I knew I wanted to do the ZLM duo with a little more care next.

Not normal,