Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Jak Phoenix Character Sketches

So Matt asked me to sketch a few more characters. I was going to wait until I finished reading the novel, but after meeting Cartrite I had these images of characters in my head and wanted to get them on paper.

First is Cartrite. He's orchestrating the takeover of the entire galaxy by setting up a government that is destined to fail and then stepping in and saving the day. It's a rather brilliant yet insidious plot. What's scary is it could so easily happen in real life.

I based his costume on Stalin's uniform and the face is a composite of two white haired actors. I bought a new skinny brush that I used for the first time on this face to create more delicate lines for faces and hands while going for thick lines for the clothes and chair. It provides a nicer line weight contrast than I usually have.

The next character is Rusty. He's the proprietor of a space station where weary travelers can stop and repair their ships and themselves. In the story he gives Jak first class treatment, but Jak suspects there's something not entirely altruistic in his motives, and of course he's right; Rusty wants something--something big.

I based his look on a couple of different characters. I thought a medieval type garb would fit the innkeeper nature of the character. I pictured him as being short and round, but I wasn't sure about the hair. This version shows it well kept, but I did consider making him much older with out of control hair. I'm not sure which is better.

If you haven't had a chance to read Jak Phoenix and you enjoy old fashioned space operas, do yourself a favor and pick it up. The story is great! The characters are more memorable than the typical space opera character. The adventure is interesting and varied. The only criticism I have is the writing: it's not as efficient as it could be, some parts a little overwritten, and a few awkward phraseologies pop up here and there, but not enough to get in the way of enjoying the story.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cover Art

Have you ever been told not to judge a book by its cover? And have you put that to the test and realized it was absolute nonsense? Of course you should judge a book by its cover. That's why it has one!

Which brings me to the topic at hand. This was my first attempt at a cover for an inspirational book. It was rejected. Why? The client loved the colors and the figures, but it did not represent the content of the book. So I ended up doing something completely different that the client absolutely loved, and will probably attract the type of customer who will buy and enjoy her book.

This was done with my dollar brush, sumi ink, then scanned into my iMac and digitally colored in Corel Painter X. The background is a composite of three photos and the rock their standing on is from the Australian Outback. I really like putting cartoon figures with a realistic coloring against a photographic background that's been digitally tweaked to look painted.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Writing Process

I love DVDs. While I love the main feature (the movie), my favorite part is the behind-the-scenes feature. I love learning how and why a movie was made. The same goes for books. I love learning about the process that went on from conception to publication and all the steps and changes that happened along. So in that spirit, I thought I’d share my own writing process for those who are curious about where my stories come from.

Step 1: The Idea

I don’t sit down and say to myself, “Self, you must come up with an idea for a story.” Instead I go about my day working on websites and other work. During the normal course of a day, something will spark, and I write that spark down. I have over a dozen pages of story ideas. I look over these ideas from time to time and explore them in my mind. I’ll write down additional ideas, images, actions, themes, characters, possible titles, etc. that I think of with these, devoting a page to each major idea.

Step 2: The Basic Story

Once I've filled a page with enough raw material, I'll identify the most interesting threads and organize the other ideas around it. I'll create a loose plot so I have some notion of where the story may begin, where it may travel, and where it may end.

Step 3: Plot and Dialogue

Once a story emerges, I’ll write a very tight plot and dialogue. The format is similar to a movie script with the major actions spelled out, a lot of the dialogue written, and the major emotions or thoughts identified. This plot usually ends up getting restarted, rewritten, and resorted several times before it is finished. I think of it as the skeleton of the story. It tells me basically how long the work will be (so I know if it is a short story, a novel, a comic book, etc.) I also know who the characters are, what they will do, what their motivation is, what changes they will go thru, what the major conflicts are, and have a very tight story.

Step 4: First Draft

After all this work I’ll begin a handwritten first draft. This stage goes pretty quickly since the story is basically written, the conflicts worked out, and the characters well defined. I still make a lot of changes at this stage, but knowing the overall story in pretty good detail helps me keep everything consistent with revelations and discoveries happening at the right moments.

Step 5: Second Draft

Once the first draft is written, I begin the second draft which is when I type the story into the computer. Again I make a lot of changes as I go being both writer and editor. I mainly refine the story itself expanding undeveloped scenes and cut boring or unnecessary scenes.

Step 6: Refinement

Revision and refinement is mostly to work on the wording and clarify any writing, but I have been known to add a couple of chapters as this stage if the message wasn’t complete. I’ll usually make three passes correcting mistakes and working on wording. I have no interest in impressing readers with my extensive vocabulary or complex sentence structure. I try to make the writing as clear and efficient as possible without getting dry. I want the writing to be so smooth it just disappears leaving the reader with unfettered access to the story.

Step 7: Publish!

Finally I illustrate and publish. And wallah — a new story is born!