The True Lords of Sin City

And ever so slowly another layer is peeled back. Hope you’re still intrigued. Might run a little contest soon, before I start promoting the strip. Just a thank you for everyone who has come through the doors early and slumped down in a chair for a spell to see what this is all about. Think I’ll pull out an original drawing to put up for grabs.

Oh, and see those to gents escorting Mac in the last panel? Look familiar? Have a browse back through the archives. I’ve posted some images of them before. They come up a lot in the novel. It’s a lot of fun building something that is interwoven from one end to the other. A bit like building a puzzle from the inside out. Won’t really get to piece together the edges until the first novel comes out.

An offer you should refuse.

The plot thickens, which also slows down the art production. The next few pages will be interesting. A few glimpses of the shadowy side of magicians. Just a glimpse mind you.

In the meantime, if you want a complete story to read (or to read to someone), my new picture book came out last week. It’s dark too, so if you like this art I think you’ll love “The Prince’s New Pet“:

The Prince’s New Pet

Opportunity Knocks

Episode four, here we are. What say you? Does it have at least a tiny crab claw on your curiosity? The pace does seem oh so slow for me, but I’ve always had a tendency to info dump waaay to early in my writing and it’s a habit I’ve worked hard to break. Promise, there are so many cool things to come and I guarantee you won’t see them till they are three blocks away with your wallet or purse securely in hand. I kid of course, just had to toss a street con allusion in there.

And thanks to all the early readers and the word spreading on twitter and such. I’m holding off on any kind of marketing until I have a stable full of pages. So the fact that you’re reading this right now means a ton.

Running Home Again

Well, here we are. Page two. Sorry if this updating schedule feels like a slow crawl down an up escalator. I truly hope I’ll be able to up the production line by next year. It’s also the reason why I’m not revving up the PR machine for this one. It’s a bit hard to ask people to swing by the site and check out one or two pages. However, I truly appreciate all the re-tweets and stumbles over the past week.

The Story Begins

And so it finally begins. This is the first page of the Conjurers webcomic. And a new page shall follow every Monday. Thanks to all who waited an awfully long time for me to get my duff of the fence and get this webcomic part started.

And, as this arc is obviously named “Savachia’s Tale”, this first chapter of comics will follow the young street magician right up to his journey to the Conjurian. Which is to say this first story leads right into the first prose novel.

Once a week is not much of an updating schedule, but between cranking out another daily strip and a couple other book projects, it’s about all I can swing…for now. Rest assured, this first arc is plotted and revised so I know where we’re going. And there will be twists. Not everything is as it appears. This is the world of magicians after all.

Character concept – the princess

image

This is a character that will be in the first webcomic story and in the novel. She is based on a real magician, Princess Tenyo. I’m a long way off on her look so I’ll share some sketches from the process.

Some pages from the Moleskine

IMG_20110601_202051

Thought I’d post some quick thumbnails from the sketchbook. Currently I’m scripting the entire story arc for the first episode of the webcomic. Once that’s done I’ll start the breakdowns for each page.

The above image is a definite scene from page two. I’m learning as I go that I’m just not going to get as much into each page as I thought. Taking a cue from Freakangels, I’m going for bigger panels with concentrated drama. Originally I thought the panel above would be on the first page. Not the case. Pacing will be key, as will character development. The trick is to hook the reader enough to come back without becoming a melodramatic cliffhanger.

The image below is a quick sketch of one of my favorite creatures from the story. It appears in the opening chapters of the Novel, and will also appear in the webcomic. It’s just a skull, spine and arms shrouded in decaying robes:

IMG_20110601_202106

I’ll keep posting images from the sketchbook along with my initial outlines for the webcomic. Try to document my process, including all the horrendous errors and wrong turns the writing will initially take.

Webcomic Process: Grayscale

Here’s another look behind the curtain on making a webcomic, or at least on how I do it. This is the grey stage. It’s the hardest part for me as I always want to charge ahead and splash colors all over everything and be done with it. That always ends in a mess.

Not that this won’t end in a mess, but by having a process in place, I’ll be able to improve the art over time and get it to where I want it. In this step I flatted all the figures. That means coloring them in with just grey.

After that, I throw in some subtle shadows and highlights. Subtle is the key word and it’s the hardest part of this hardest part.

The backgrounds are combos of vectorized photos and some square brush work. I’m trying to push the style towards something I’m not comfortable with which means further away from attempting to draw pure realism. A little abstraction adds some energy methinks.

And you can see just the inks in this post from a few days ago: http://theconjurers.com/the-webcomic-is-real/

Webcomic Cover Sample

And here is a sample illustration for the webcomic. Not that webcomics have covers, but I plan on fleshing this out into a fully rendered painting and using to promote the comic side of things.

Now I just have to put the title of the first story arc on this one and it’s good to go…for now.

Sample Illustration for the Book Pitch

Finally, a few finished (but still rough) pieces to show you. This is just a sample cover idea. I think, for the final color illustrations, I’ll be doing a more involved, painted style. For now, it remains in the comic book realm.

The Webcomic is Real!

As most of you know, I’m hard at work on polishing up the pitch for the novel. At the same time I am also working on the webcomic side of things, simply because A: I want to launch the comic this year, and B: I want to include a sample in the novel pitch.

So I thought I’d share the inks to page one of episode one. I’m not completely sold on the style, but I think I’ll let it improve and grow organically from here on out. Also, haven’t made the final decisions on colors, but I do know I want a painterly effect for the backgrounds (that’s why I haven’t drawn backgrounds in some of the panels.

And on a side note, I need to go clarify the about page. Bit confusing on what exactly “The Conjurers” is.

Cover Process – greys

In this step I dropped in subtle shadows and highlights. Keyword “subtle”. I always make the mistake of hacking in shadows and highlights and the end result is usually a horrid mess. Over the years, I’ve studied other painters and comic colorists and learned how just a slight color change makes a huge difference. For now the name of the game is control and preventing myself from rushing.

This step will get some more tweaks until I’m relatively happy. Then on to texturing.

Book Cover Process

I have a few processes going on right now because, well, I’m working on a bunch of them right now. This is a step from the sample cover illustration from the novel. At this stage, I’ve laid down all the flats. So now, I can focus in on specific areas one at a time.

It also makes it easy to select certain areas later on. If I want to lay in lighting effects behind the playing card, I can click on that layer and use it to mask out whatever is supposed to be behind the car.

In the next update, I’ll show you what it looks like with all the grey shadows and highlights finished.

Finished Inks for Webcomic Cover

And here are the finished inks for the first cover to the webcomic. The next step is the coloring and some digital renderings of antique playing cards. Hopefully the finished product will pop.

Webcomic Cover Pencils

Rough photo of the rough pencils for the webcomic cover. This is Savachia, the star of the first story arc in the comic. He’s a secondary character in the novel (an important one though) and we’ll get to see how he ended up in the Conjurian in the first webcomic series.

He’s a little bit of David Blaine and a dash of Criss Angel. More importantly, he’s not what you initially think.

Illustration Process: Flatting

Here we go with the boring part of this illustration: flatting. In essence I’m blocking in color, or in this case, grays. Each major section of the illustration gets colored in with a flat color (hence “flatting”) and they’re each on their own layer. There are several advantages to this approach.

First off, I can adjust the tones until I get the atmosphere I want. And get the focal points where I want them. Second, having each element on its own layer makes the detailing and texturing steps a lot easier.

It looks sloppy but here’s the flat stage:

Aggler_flats

Another illustration

Here we go with the second sample illustration from the novel. I’m doing a bit better recording the process on this drawing. This drawing shows the arrival of Christopher Aggler and the two spying faces of Alex and Emma. Here is the scanned inks:

Aggler_scan

As you can see, the drawing had to be scanned in two parts and pieced together in Photoshop. I line up the two scans as best I can then use the eraser to “blend” the seam. After that I mess with the levels to get nice, crisp line art:

Aggler_line_art

Once I’ve rid myself of the blue pencil lines, I convert the image to grayscale, select the gray channel and fill it with black on a new layer. Now I have all the black lines on a transparent sheet which makes the coloring process easier.

In the next installment I’ll show the flatting process (insert yawn here).