Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ain't blogged in a minute...

I don't like to talk politics, but I'm getting sick of all this craziness surrounding health care reform. You'd think the people of America (or at least the Republicans) don't want any change at all. Everyone says reform is necessary, but the only ones putting out ideas are the ones putting in work. Everybody else claims that "Obamacare" will kill the country and encourage euthanasia, and you got people chanting "Death to Obama" over this crap... but no one is coming up with anything better or even different. So I guess we're happy with the way things are.

Oy. Anyway, what I really wanted to blog about was how smooth my Jet Dancer planning progress is. It's so funny that when forced to be away from deviantART for a while (it doesn't seem like my job is going to restore social network access on our computers any time soon, if at all), I don't seem to struggle with indecisiveness the way I used to. It used to take nary a simple thought about a moment in Nia Black's story or the background of my WCL project to make me shift gears and go back to developing one of them, but nowadays I can actively think about the ideas in terms of what I did wrong with them and why they didn't work out (yet), considering all my mistakes while developing my definitive concept, Jet Dancer.

I was giddy as a schoolgirl with the turnout in my Jet Dancer jam (here) even though it wasn't a huge amount of entries, I appreciated every one of them. It makes me feel like this character can really go places.

I have been spending the last couple of weeks developing the graphic novel in between all my other responsibilities. I have vowed not to pencil a single page until I planned all 48. Some might think that it's no big deal that I've roughed up sketchy thumbnails of pages, but the way I think about it is this: part of building a house is finalizing the blueprints and layout so you know exactly what you're building. It's not minor--that's a huge step. A solid blueprint leads to a strong structure. These thumbnails are my blueprints, and I'm nearly done. My motivation was re-invigorated and I roughed up to page 40 today. I actually planned out eight pages today, when my usual record was four, and for a few days last week, I barely did one or two. If I can keep the same pace, I can have this entire book planned out by tomorrow evening. Then I can move on to page penciling and the cover.

It feels great to be getting somewhere. I'm tempted to scan and upload the rest of the layouts, but I think I won't. I am working on other art too, but I'm not sure if I want to upload anything that might distract me.

I guess that's it for now. Stay strong, stay busy, stay moving forward.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Final layout--for the first chapter

As of today, I finished the last four pages of my first 12-page chapter.


Got the comic laid out in a way that I'm feeling...I'm going to start drawing the first page on Monday. Got a busy weekend ahead.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More comic layouts

The second set of pages in the first chapter of my Jet Dancer comic book in development... while sketching these up (which isn't as easy as it may look), I also finalized the entire story. The first two stories I wrote were okay, but I wasn't excited by them. Then I stopped and thought about what I wanted to do with my story. The whole point is to establish a fun character. All I need to do is define her and have fun with it. It needn't be deep (like 99% of the other stories I come up with). So for me to come up with an action story that can be contained in a 48-page comic book (as opposed to, say, a 350-page novel) is quite an accomplishment for me.

Anyway, the layouts...


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Working on comics...

I'm always fighting this internal battle. See, I'm in school for Graphics and Multimedia. My goal is to make video games. It seemed like a practical idea at the time...the industry is booming, I like games and I have a little code writing in my background, not to mention an appreciation for art and graphics. But I also have this unending drive to draw comics. I don't believe there's anything wrong with that, and the more I try to resist it, the more I just keep trying to do it.

So, with that, I have purged two of the three concepts that have plagued my mind and compelled me to be indecisive for the last decade or so, and have resolved to focus 100% of my creativity on one thing.

To that end, I went out and bought myself a pack of Canson Fanboy Comic Book Layout Pages. They're structured in such a way that makes it easy to plan rough thumbnails of comic pages complete with notes. Today I spent some time revising a story I came up with for my premiere character and I planned out a comic. Below are the thumbnails I scrawled up on my layout paper:


I gotta say, it was fun. I felt like I was making some definite progress on good comic planning, and the paper only cost $3.88 (Utrecht was having a sale) for 35 sheets with four layouts each. That's far more than I need to create the book I'm working on, which I plan to produce within a year's time...a 48 page graphic novel featuring the one and only Jet Dancer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This layout...

...isn't working for me...


Trying to get this last commission done...I have to admit I'm not happy with this composition, but this is about the fifth attempt at this. I know I'm capable of better.

I also know my client is getting impatient...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I hate hard work.

No, I don't mean the way everyone hates hard work. I mean, I REALLY don't like it. I shy away from it. I avoid it like the plague. I naturally seek the path of least resistance.

In short, I'm lazy. Chronically so.

Case in point: I work for the US Government. US civilian employees are some of the most slow-moving, sedentary people in existence. When referencing them, it's difficult to use the term "work force". Now, there are exceptions to this rule. I used to be. But after 10 years of working in the same office, I feel it coming on. I take my time with every task. Assignments that used to take three hours, I drag out over days between my web surfing, sketching and strolls around the block. And my superiors don't seem to care.

Case in point: I have never completed a comic book in my life, not in full color anyway. Every time I get to the point where it will become challenging (e.g., resolving perspective issues in each panel, coloring it all up) I shy away.

Case in point: Yes, I finished my novel, and I even edited it from start to finish numerous times. But marketing, getting an ISBN, submitting it to literary agents (which requires writing a decent novel outline) and heaven forbid rewriting it to make a better story out of an already good one... these are things I avoid.

Now, I'm getting ready to start school (online courses). This whole lazy approach to life isn't going to work, not if I'm going to get my degree. I need to learn how to appreciate hard work... even enjoy it. I'm hoping I get lots of commissions, not so much because of the money (although I guess if it weren't about the money, I'd lower my prices), but because I don't like doing commissions, as I stated before. They're hard work. But I need to learn to appreciate hard work, and the best way to do that for me, I think, is to have a lot of things that I may not necessarily WANT to do, but HAVE to do.

If that doesn't work, there's always brutely forcing myself to finish a comic that I've started...

Video Games...

Every now and again, I consider giving up video games completely. I keep thinking doing that can only benefit me.

A little background: when I was a little kid, I didn't have much. I hesitate to say "we was po'" but I will say that I grew up in a household with a single mom and three other siblings, and it was usually my two younger sisters that got my mom's attention, both emotionally and financially. So, lacking the toys and other things my friends had, I turned to pencil and paper for my entertainment. Since I didn't have action figures, I made up characters, often transforming them into paper figurines, building board games around them, and more...which quickly evolved into trying to draw comics and write stories about them. As time went on, I gained stuff...had some toys, an NES, SNES, Game Boy, so on...this stuff never lasted. It would break or get lost or stolen or whatever, and when I was without, I focused on my characters and drawings some more.

In a nutshell, it was being 'without' that helped me to become creative. I can only imagine how far I'd have gotten if I was completely disinterested in the material things my friends and more well-off relatives had growing up, and completely focused on my art. I might have a better work ethic now that I'm in my early 30s.

But the past is not a wound I'm looking to heal or anything, I just wanted to illustrate a little part of my persona. Now that I have a full time job (not to mention a working spouse), there's nothing preventing me from having the things I want. If I want a new game for my PS3, Wii, DS or PSP, I just buy it...or at least pay Gamefly's monthly fee. Same with movies, books, whatever. But I spend most of my recreational time and dollars on video games. Mind you, my number one source of artistic inspiration happens to be video games. I was never a big comic reader (one wonders why drawing comics is such a big part of my artistic identity); I was much more into animation and gaming. The stuff I create is usually inspired by an experience I had in a game.

However, it's been a long time since a game has truly inspired me. I just end up playing them for fun these days, and sometimes out of some strange sense of obligation. I know it's detrimental to my creativity. I know that if I did not have access to these games, my mind would focus on creativity. It was a general lack of gaming, internet access and challenging work that led me to write my Nia Black novel--the one thing in my life that I've worked through to a solid state of completion.

And yet, my wife, my number one supporter, expresses her disagreement with my idea of selling most of my games, even though I'm the only one in the household who plays them. She believes I will become depressed without them, and she (rightfully) considers them her property too, so I can't just up and sell them or give them away without her OK.

And even if I did sell them, what then? I would either get a fraction of their worth (if anything) in real cash since none of my games are particularly rare, or I would sell them to Gamestop or Gamefly for credit towards more games...defeating the whole purpose.

I could, of course, simply not play them. Out of sight, out of mind. Funny story though...I recently acquired Cross Edge, an RPG for PS3. This game, strangely, has become a new activity that my six-year-old daughter and I share. She loves to read the dialogue, and I help her with larger words (when they're not speaking) and she really likes a lot of characters in the game, especially Prinny. Last night, she was extremely disappointed that I chose to focus on art (I'm creating a Jet Dancer model sheet) instead of playing Cross Edge. It's hard to turn my back on that kind of validation.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just stressing for nothing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I was sitting at the bus stop today and I felt more like sketching than like playing my PSP for a change. So I came up with an idea. I whipped out my phone, where I keep a variety of photos and reference images that I use in my art. One such folder houses a selection of my choice artistic nude photographs. (Don't lie; you've got a folder like that too.) I like drawing women, and I like having my inspiration with me wherever I may be. So anyway, what I did was opened said folder and turned on the slideshow function. I challenged myself to gesture the figures that were displayed in the brief time that they showed up.

Then I realized that the slideshow's frames had a limit of a four second delay, which was just too fast. So I came up with another idea...I simply brought up a pic, then rough gestured it until my phone's screen automatically switched off (about thirty seconds). Then I would turn the screen back on and switch to the next pic, and gesture that. It was like having my own little Posemaniacs 30-second gesture app on my G1.

Then it started raining and I had to stop drawing. Wet paper is no fun. But here was the result:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Battling art block

I hate it when I want to draw, but I just can't get myself to do it. I feel like I shouldn't have to deal with art block, because if it's something I want to do professionally, I will need to be able to draw as if its an assignment, not an emotional desire. After all, I don't let any kind of "block" prevent me from doing my job at work.

But I digress. To try to break block, I tend to loosen up and just whip out crappy gestures, just to make sure my hand doesn't forget how to hold a pencil. Today, I whipped these up: Photobucket

I figure, I'm going to make Jet Dancer my everything--my artistic focus for both personal and professional pursuits. So I need to get used to drawing her. So I played around with various action poses and some other types of positions. None of this is meant to become anything more than a rough sketch but it was fun to do. I particularly like the flying kick one.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I'll going to share a secret with all two of the people who might read this.

I hate doing commissions. I mean, I really, REALLY hate doing commissions.

It wouldn't matter if I was paid $1000 for a drawing or more, I would still hate the responsibility. See, what it boils down to, I guess, is selfishness. I would much rather spend my time drawing my characters and writing my stories, than working on the artwork as requested by others. And it always seems like, just when I'm on the verge of a creative breakthrough, some big financial problem smacks me in the face and I need extra money to make things easier. And even though I don't get that many commissions these days, they tend to be my most reliable means of putting some extra money in my pocket quickly, so I go for it.

I can't get my own creative concepts off of my mind, but as an honorable man, I compel myself to put commission work first. I may post warm-up sketches featuring my characters, but rest assured my serious drawing time is spent on drawings I owe others. In the end, no amount of money (probably) can compensate me for the stress I feel because I have to draw something for another person before I can go back to developing my own work.

It makes me wonder if I really have what it takes to be a true professional. I mean, I know of comic artists who draw their own things and do well with it--Adam Warren's up to Empowered Volume 6 so he must be doing something right. But on the other hand, he's got a reputation and a pedigree because of the work he's done in the past, work for others like Dirty Pair and Gen-13 and Exalted. But I can't--no wait, let me rephrase--I don't want to draw others' characters as a career. (I wholeheartedly don't believe in "can't" when it comes to creativity--I believe "can't" must be replaced with "don't want to" because we can do anything within our will to accomplish.)

I'm not sure what Fred Perry did before creating Gold Digger but I remember reading on Wikipedia that he came out of the military and decided he wanted to draw comics; Gold Digger was the result. So no past comic pedigree there. If he could do something like that, can I?

Anyway, back on topic, the fact is I hate doing commission work, but I took the money (and spent it already), so I can't get out of it. I just needed to vent. I try not to let negative feelings hamper the quality of my work (and sometimes, my commissions really turn out well), but more often than not, it's clear that some commissions are images that I just didn't want to do. Aside from the Bison image in my gallery, I have no really outstanding works of fan art in my portfolio. It's because I hate doing it. I just don't care about anyone else's characters as much as I do my own. No offense to anyone.

Anyway, back to work. Gotta git 'ur dun. I need to gain more financial responsibility (or just bigger finances) so I don't have to take on commission work that I don't want to do in order to recover from my mistakes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I wasn't lying when I said my mind was a raging storm of incessant ideas.

Today I took a walk around the block, whipped out my G1 phone and opened up the Notepad app to do some writing. I scripted the first chapter of what I hope to make into the Jet Dancer graphic novel. I have a story in mind that I think will do a great job of establishing the character and showing that she's not just another run-of-the-mill super heroine or just another scantily-clad "bad girl" whose sex appeal is more important than her character. It also resurrects some of my more obscure characters (I have some old friends who have been wondering what has become of my one true "super hero" character, All-Star...they'll find out) and introduces new ones. The story even connects effectively to my Nia Black novel, which will give me a good excuse to re-introduce it as a piece of historical background to Jet Dancer's universe.

Every now and then I really have to stop and thank God for this gift he gave me, this ability to create stories and write them well. I don't want this to be taken as arrogance; if I were really great at it, I'd be making a living at it. But I take it for granted so much. I often find that it's something that people envy about me. At the same time, I often regret having this skill because I keep coming up with stories. I spend more time coming up with stories than I do expressing said stories. I need to pray for focus and patience.

The major thing on my mind is this pursuit I'm embarking upon, the fact that I'll be attending DeVry University online starting next month, studying Graphics and Multimedia (e.g., video game development). I keep wondering if it was a good idea because, for the first time in my life, I'm starting to believe what family, friends, co-workers, instructors, friends and fellow students have been telling me all my life--that I might be good enough to make money off of my art and writing. Real money...not nickel-and-dime Lulu sales, but something that can grow into a franchise. It may be Nia Black, it may be Jet Dancer, it may even be WCL...or it may be something that I haven't fully developed yet. I've always dreamed of making video games out of my characters and stories. Whenever I come up with a concept, I tend to decide what kind of video game it would be. WCL started out as an online-enabled third-person arena fighting game idea; Nia Black was a 2D platformer like a combination between Prince of Persia and Metroid, and Jet Dancer would be a 3D open world mission-based game with the fluidity of movement of Prototype or 3D Spider-Man games.

It's hard to say which I cared about more, between drawing comics and making up video games. Maybe I drew comics because they were the closest I could come to pursuing that dream because I was just a punk kid with lots of paper and pencils, and no technology available. Or maybe I just loved video games so much I wanted to see my own characters in them instead of the likes of Mario and Samus. Whichever the reason, I've set upon the path now; no sense doubting or regretting it. Sure, I could cancel, but then I'd have to ask myself, what should I do instead?

But it does make me wonder if I should even try to draw a Jet Dancer graphic novel. Maybe what I should really be doing is concept art, because I told myself a long time ago that if/when I went to school for video game design, I'd use one of my own ideas as the basis for my exercises if I could. I'd love to be able to present a playable level of a Jet Dancer/Nia Black/WEAPON Combat League video game as my final demo upon graduation.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I wanted to accomplish something...

And at least I'm off to a good start.


I decided that I needed to do a better job of a fight scene between the two characters I've been commissioned to draw. In a rare moment of invigoration, I broke out the A3 Bristol board, turned on a couple of Netflix instant flicks and got busy scrawling this up.

The beauty of having two monitors is how I can have a movie playing on one screen and have my reference pics on the other screen, giving them both a huge amount of screen real estate.

I'm lousy at split-scanning, but that's okay because I ink my pencils digitally. I'm going to fix all the mistakes, as well as add gobs of detail, as this image progresses. But this was a big project, and I'm ready to step away from the drawing table and the PC so I can finally go and see if Prototype is worth all the hype.

Letting go of stress

Nia's Last Hurrah by =Dualmask on deviantART

Between battling feelings of needing to be "true to my race" by focusing on black characters, the fact that Nia represents my most complete creative work to date, the fact that my online friends keep clamoring for her return and my incessant indecisiveness, I've come to the conclusion that Nia Black is one of the most powerful sources of stress I allow to get to me.

Enough is enough.

I have to stop letting the people decide what I do. I have to start enjoying my work again. That's why I made up Jet, that's why I enjoy drawing her so much and that's why I'm going to continue to do so.

I'm not purging Nia Black or anything like that, but I'm moving her story to my external hard drive, where I store archival data. It's time to move on, to move forward. Every time I look at Nia, I'm looking back.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Today's sketches

I tried to keep a theme of drawing a cute/sexy/sultry pic of a female character every day to warm up before "serious" drawing...though they often end up becoming the "serious" drawing of the day.

Here's what I did first:
Jet Dancer sitting

I love my Jet Dancer character. However, she has this problem. Her most unique feature being below her knees, I'm often hard-pressed to come up with interesting ways to draw her. She practically demands being drawn full-body at all times, which can be tricky. I found a pose like this on the net and tried drawing it my way, but Jet's big ol' boots made things difficult. My heart wasn't really into the pencil work, but I know it can look better if I inked and colored it. Probably won't, though.

I did a little playing around with this:
Lady Octopus vs Kim Paler

It's the intended layout for the first of my two commissions for a single client, Teri-Minx. The idea is the two characters are locked in combat. The two images I'm tasked to do are to feature two opposing yet equal sides of the struggle so both characters are shown on equal footing. This one doesn't really choose a side, so I'm not sure I'm going to go with it, even though I like the poses.

That's it for now. I'm either going to spend the rest of the day coloring my Shauntia at the Beach image, or keep working on the commission layout.

Testing email blogging

This is a test to see if an image taken on my phone, emailed to myself at work can be posted to my blog via email.

See, at my job, where I spend more time than anywhere else unfortunately (the pitfalls of working full time), the workstations have a lot of things blocked or disabled. Among them, sites like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Photobucket are inaccessible. Because of this, I need to seek other ways to post images to my blog when I have something that I simply must show off right after I draw it (I do most of my drawing at work). Thus, through using my 3G enabled phone and email trickery, I try to find ways to circumvent the system.

Perhaps I'll try uploading pics to Photobucket directly through my phone in the future, or just be patient and wait until I can scan the drawings in at home...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tonight's work

Not much to say today...I got a little eager to push this latest image I've been working on. It was meant as a warm-up to prep me for doing commission work, but it took on a life of its own.

I'm kind of proud of myself because I flatted this piece in something like 15 minutes: Photobucket

Monday, June 08, 2009

To GN or not to GN, that is the question.

GN = graphic novel.

I talked with an old friend from my Art Institute days, who's starting up his own comic production company. He's gathered together a team of artists whose job it will be to produce their own 48-54 page comic work, to be marketed and promoted by said company, and my friend wants me to be involved. There really isn't much to lose because the artist retains personal copyright of the work in question and if the work isn't finished in time, neither the company nor the artist loses anything.

So, naturally, I'm considering it. But whether or not I get involved with the actual group, the concept got me thinking about whether or not I should be considering drawing my own comics. I have written novels and it has been suggested numerous times that I transform my novels into graphic novels. My reasoning for not doing so has always been twofold:

1. Because my stories are so long, it would take me a ludicrous amount of time to tell the entire story in graphic form.

2. Due to my lack of comic drawing skills, I'm convinced that it's not really worth the effort. I'd spend years drawing a comic that has little chance of selling due to a lack of quality.

To reinforce both beliefs, I have not finished a comic book effort since 1996, and the comics I have uploaded to DeviantART have never gotten more than a few comments and favorites.

Team that with the simple fact that I have enough trouble debating which of my many concepts to focus on without considering which concept would be easiest and most enjoyable to transform into a comic, and one can see why I'm so filled with doubt over the endeavor. It's one thing to casually draw comics for fun and possibly get a few low-end sales on a site like Lulu or Cafepress, but my "serious" art is always pin-up work and writing.

I can question why I should do this and that into oblivion. But until I see undeniable proof that I have what it takes to publish my own comic work, to the point where the art is on equal footing with the story, I will never have that confidence.

So, to kind of test the waters, I'm determined to finish a simpler comic, a battle between two different characters with very little surrounding context, just to see how it turns out when I put a week's worth of effort into each page. I uploaded the first page last weekend, so I want to have the next one finished by next Saturday night. I'm already halfway through the inking. I can finish that up and have flats done by tonight. With that, all that would remain is the lettering and highlight/shading, and those parts will come easy; it's the flats that end up being the most difficult and tedious.

I hope it turns out well. It may very well be just the confidence booster--or killer--that will help me make future plans.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Exclusive Insider Look - NB Novella development

I'm working on adding images to my Nia Black novel, breaking up the book into separate chapters/acts/parts what have you, and will release a new production tentatively known as the Nia Black novella. The story is quite long, too long for me to transform into a graphic novel, so stop asking me to do it, it's not going to happen. What is going to happen though, is that I will fill every chapter of the book with several pinups and sequential pages to put a visual touch on various parts of the story. I have made mention of this idea in the past...


But as you can see, I'm actually working on it now. This is the tentative cover. Like most of my art, things tend to dramatically change in the transition between the pencil stage and the digital color stage, so don't take this as the absolute final. Note the telltale boots in the upper left and the Bo staff in the upper right...precursors of things to come.


This is a scene from the primary action sequence of the first chapter of the book. Nia's coolly dodging a wild attack from a guard. Special effects and what not will spice this up quite nicely.

Forthcoming is a sequential page and another pinup that will focus on Nia's brazen getaway. The thumbnails for these images are already prepared and I expect to have them penciled by week's end, with full color to follow. Though they'll be printed in grayscale in the books to come, I will also put together a Nia Black art book that will feature the images from the novella in full color, historical imagery of the character (much of which is on dA) as well as new art that won't be found anywhere else. Perhaps there will also be a fan art section in there too.

Keep an eye on me, because JP is moving forward.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Destroy and rebuild...

Is probably not going to happen the way it sounds. But, I've decided to start listening to the people. I've always known that no matter what I ever created, Nia Black would always be superior to it. I don't know if that speaks volumes for how good the character design is, or how bad a creator I am since I can't seem to outdo an over 10-year-old creation...but the real question I'm starting to ask myself is why would I want to outdo her? If the people like her and there's more I can do with her, and if I myself acknowledge her superior value and worth, then it stands to reason that I have more to lose by trying to do something new than by sticking to what the people adore most about what I create.

So, the re-tooling of Nia Black has begun. One simple (in theory) change that I'm working on right now is editing the story so that it doesn't take place in "River City", but instead takes place in Philadelphia, PA--my home town. Marvel's work generally outshines DC's because New York is more believable than Gotham (even though I prefer Batman to Spider-Man any day of the week). Most writing tips and how-to's I've read suggested that basing the novel in a real location grounds the story in reality, even if all the location names are fictional. So I went through a list of all the major locations in the story and decided just where in the Philadelphia area they would fall. Since "River City" was inspired by Philadelphia anyway (the "River" part is the Schuykill River, which I can clearly see from my workplace) it makes little sense that I didn't do it this way in the first place.

It's funny, but I haven't drawn a really enjoyable pic of Nia Black in a long time. I've done some pics of her this year, but nothing really stunning. It's time I remedy that.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Is it good or bad to want to be content, for things to move at an even pace?
It sounds good on paper, but being content means you're satisfied with where you are in a certain, art, family, love, whatever the case may be. It's good to be content in some things, but bad to accept stability in others.

I'm very grateful that my wife of nearly seven years (our anniversary is in August) continues to put up with my rabid indecisiveness and knee-jerk impulses. At least I know that, God forbid something horrible should happen and I lose the ability to draw and/or write, she'll be there for me. So that's good contentment. I couldn't ask for anything more.

I'm saddened that I have yet to put out something truly worthwhile in the art/writing department. I could be content with how well I draw figures--not extremely jaw-droppingly exceptional, but definitely not bad. However, I want more out of my art. I could be content with my character designs and stories, but I'm not; I keep coming up with new ideas. It never stops. I wrote a comic script for something completely unrelated to Jet, Nia and WCL just last night on a whim. Four pages scripted in five minutes. I had to force myself not to start sketching it for fear that it would be counterproductive toward the goals I've set.

The moment I tell the world I'm going to do one thing, I subconsciously desire something different. I fight hard every day to focus on WCL--and I mean struggle, pray, put WCL-related images on everything I have that has desktop wallpaper (PS3, PSP, cell phone, work and home computers), drive-myself-up-a-wall-until-I-have-a-headache fight--because all it takes is for someone to say "I miss Nia" or "can't wait to see more of Jet" for me to consider switching gears. That's not normal.

One should never be content with their artistic level. Be confident in it, yes, but never content. One should always desire to improve, if for no other reason than to make it more interesting so it doesn't become tedious, even if your goal has nothing to do with making money off your work.
What's funny is I feel like a part of me likes being indecisive this way. I could release WCL as a novel (a part 1 anyway) right now. But I want to add art to it. Then, when I focus on doing so, I start thinking about the fact that I'm putting all this fight into WCL when everyone, everywhere...from people I've met at ECBACC to my own wife and kids to my friends, watchers and dare I say fans on DeviantART to my co-workers, even random people who see my art for the first time, and even the deep recesses of my subconscious say:

"I love that Nia Black character; she's pretty cool. You should do something with her story."

And that sounds great...until I try it. Then I struggle to draw anything because my heart's not there. I envision what could be...not what is. I envision what I'd love to see, not what I believe I can--or can't--do.

Ugh, all this whining and complaining is starting to get to even me.

I feel like I should just put out a poll and say which one do you like best:

A novella (illustrated novel) about a futuristic sci-fi battle league concept featuring young warriors wearing suits that give them super powers, against a backdrop filled with political scandal and intrigue, sabotage and rivalries, told from intertwining points of view?

A novel about a young, African-American woman who, using greatly honed martial arts skills, firearms and her own matchless charm, commits jobs for various criminal underworld figures, all the while sorting out her love life, discovering the truth about her estranged family, and running from a secret organization bent on using her unique skills for their own ends?

A webcomic about the adventures of a fun-loving, curvy young Hispanic woman with high-powered, indestructible rocket boots, who revels in flinging her body through the air, hunting down criminals using aerial dance maneuvers and her super strength, fighting to protect the city while seeking the truth about her clandestine origin?

They all sound great to me. How about my lesser ideas?

How about the story of a young woman, tragically beaten and left for dead, who is mysteriously granted the powers of the Grim Reaper and reborn? With the ability to see the nature of the human spirit itself and the mystical Scythe of the Reaper in her hand, she fights to root out demonic presences and ensure that souls go to judgment before they can be siphoned and fed to the dark master of the underworld.

How about the story of a young man who, upon returning from his martial arts training, learns that his father, a scientist for a powerful military manufacturing firm, was callously murdered. In order to find out the truth, the young man works for the firm as an enforcer, donning a costume and mask, and wielding his mastery of martial arts and tempered Bo staff to take the firm's justice to all who oppose it. But his innate honor conflicts with his malicious occupation and his indecision may lead to disaster for many, especially his brilliant older sister, who works as successor to their father.

I could do this all day. I could reach into the depths of my mind and pull out more. But I won't. This is how my mind works. This is what I do. I grew up thinking I could be a one man House of Ideas like Marvel Comics. I swear, I would be grateful if everything else would just fade away and one idea--just one--would stay in my head forever.

That's doable, isn't it? All I have to ask is which idea do I care about most?

Which school? Any school? I dunno what school...

Okay, yesterday I spoke with a rep from the Art Institutes Online, and today I spoke with someone from DeVry University Online, both in regards to going back to school for a degree that would hopefully lead to me getting into the game industry. Both conversations went similarly; the advisors asked about my interests and what not, but the difference is the DeVry guy was more straightforward and direct with his inquiries, and made me realize that there are actual requirements to entering their school, as opposed to the Art Institute guy, who just seemed very eager to get me in.

Still, it's more of a crapshoot than anything else. DeVry is a little faster and a little cheaper than the Art Institute, and the guy told me the school is closely affiliated with companies like EA. But Ai seems more artistically oriented, which suits me better.

Of course, the same issues apply. Should I do this? Will I be able to get a job in the field, degree or not? Would I have to leave Philadelphia to get a career in this field? Am I really able to abandon or at least put aside my storytelling and artistic personal desires in favor of bettering my life this way?

They both made it very hard to say no. I know these advisor guys' jobs revolve around convincing people to enroll in the school. That's how they make their money. But it's not like doing it would not benefit me just as much. I'd be able to defer my student loans and study in a field that I am passionate about. Both schools have long standing reputations and, according to their stats, have churned out graduates with strong-paying careers at high percentages. So aside from having to put aside my artistic pursuits (like WCL), I have little to lose.

The only hard part, honestly, is picking which school to go to. My biggest concern is gathering the skills. It's one thing to decide to start pixeling or digital painting on a whim, but this is almost a complete 180 from what I've been doing the last few years.

But maybe that's what's needed. I mean, what are the real prospects for my comics, novels, novellas or webcomics? At best, a lot of work for a little profit, at worst, a lot of work for nothing.

I want to say no. A strong part of me wishes I never made the calls. Is it because I'm afraid to get out of my comfort zone, or because it's not a good idea? I'm afraid I'd have to give up drawing and writing. I'm afraid of losing my skills.

Or is it...that I'm just afraid of hard work?

...I gave it some thought. I thought about the fact that I developed my most popular concept, the Nia Black character, way back in 1998 when I was wastnig my time studying programming in Computer Learning Center. I made up WCL when I was in the midst of my Art Institute studies back in 2003 or so. It's 2009 now. I could have completed school at least twice over in that time frame and I could have been in the middle of development of a Nia or WCL game right now instead of scraping together sketches and writings trying to make a product out of it.

So I asked myself am I going to spend the next 3-5 years trying to do something with my art and writing, getting a little better, getting commissions here and there but really not doing much of anything...or am I just going to make a move and stick to it?

I'm going to make a move. The only decision that remains is whether I'm going to go to the Art Institute or DeVry...but I'm going somewhere.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Starting fresh

It's literally been years since I posted anything in this blog. It's what all the cool kids are doing so I figured I'd give it a try too. Someday I'll spice this up and make it look more interesting, but for the time being I'll just babble.

It seems the purpose of my existence is to come up with ideas, not so much to act on them. I'm at a stage in my life where I'm really starting to understand who I am, and in the process it makes me wonder what I should be doing with my life. I'm 31, I'm married with children, I work full time for the government in a very tedious position that I'm nonetheless grateful for, because it definitely beats not working at all. Still, I feel like an animal taken from the wild and caged in a can take the animal out of the wild but you can't take the wild out of the animal, and in my case, the 'wild' is my creative desire.

Every day I move forward on a story I develop. I steal time from my employer, my family and even from myself by staying up extremely late, to work on my art and writing. I believe my ideas are strong and solid, but my problem is they're all so good I can't decide which one to focus on most. Even though right now, at this moment, I'm actively pursuing one concept, it's an everyday battle to keep outside influences from pushing me in another direction.

And I wonder if I'm right or wrong. See, I'm blessed enough to have supporters online as well as off who appear to have a lot of confidence in what I'm trying to create. They seem to believe I'm capable of expressing great things. But so far, I've been a disappointment, at least to myself. I wrote and self published a book, but I can't muster up the interest and drive necessary to prepare a decent draft for literary agents and try to get the book to the next level. Worse, all my people tell me that the central character of this book is my best work, and they want to see her more and more. Meanwhile, my creative drive pushes me in another direction.

The concept I'm working on now is humongous. Several characters, intertwining storylines, a unique "magical future" along the lines of Star Wars (but nothing like Star Wars, if that makes sense) and an extremely complex narrative make the development an extremely convoluted affair. Yet I love working on it, but feedback on the work I've expressed has been mediocre at best.

I've been working very hard to try to push myself to stay focused, stop worrying about what might or might not be the best idea and just go forward until I finish something, but even that line of thought has its drawbacks. If I just push and push something that even I don't have a great deal of confidence in, doesn't that in turn guarantee I'll waste months, even years developing something for nothing?

But if I always think like that, I'll never get anything done. I have to keep reminding myself as to why I came up with the concept I did. I just keep thinking it shouldn't be this hard.

Is it right to ask others what they think? If I can't decide for myself, should I ask others, or should I just keep going through the motions?

Well, this is starting to drag out, so I'll end this here. I'll post again another time.