Archive for March, 2007

overtime for charity – a long night

March 31st, 2007 by cmkaapjes

I've found a benefit of having done the 24 hour comic day challenge: a deadline at 2 in the morning isn't that bad in comparison. Especially when you're working in a team, as we were last night. And a pretty darn good team we were, if I do say so myself!
The six of us, consisting of copywriters, web designers, graphic designers, marketing consultants and project managers created an identity, a marketing strategy, a house style, wrote and designed a flyer ánd designed and built a website. The whole shebang, on a Friday night, never having worked together before and only meeting our client that evening. I was pretty impressed we pulled it of, but everyone on our team contributed beautifully. Beforehand I was a bit worried there'd be too many captains on the ship, with most people being their own boss, but that wasn't a problem at all. Even with three designers working on the house style at the same time.

The charity we were working for is a small charity dedicated to improving health care on the Kei-islands in Indonesia. There's a large community of people from these islands living in the Netherlands that are dedicated to help their family members living in less fortunate conditions. The clan aspect of their organization makes it possible for them to oversee every part of a transport of materials: they have family or clan members living all over Indonesia, making it possible to rule out corruption and to guarantee the arrival of the materials in the right place.

We decided upon a logo emphasizing the family aspect of the organization. We had the chairman of the foundation, also elder of the clan, writing the name of the foundation (Yam-tel means great-family).
We used warm reds to contrast with the jungle greens (reds also referring to the medical needs as well as being a national color). We came up with a subtitle, the family cares, that being the angle we decided on.

It'll be interesting to see how much our efforts will mean for this organization.
It was a very interesting experience, that's for sure. I've never seen so many creative people working together at the same time (about 40 in a single room), not to mention the number of macbooks (I want that macbook pro!).

I was incredibly tired after the presentations of all the teams (by this time it was 3 a.m.) and pretty much went straight home. Would've been nice to stay and compare notes, and mingle and do some networking, but sleep was just too big a temptress.

This may seem like begging, but sometimes you need to point out that they have the option…

March 30th, 2007 by Reinder

The mirror site for the Invasion crossover storyline has two features that the main location doesn't have:

One, as pointed out earlier, is the Cast Section for Invasion only, with the characters from the storyline listed in order of appearance. Much easier to find any of the characters in there than in the main ROCR cast section.

The other is the Fan Art Section. I've not been having a great week, and one thing that always cheers me up is seeing my characters drawn by other people. So if you're feeling inspired, even if you're not a particularly skilled artist (but also if you are! Because there are a lot of people out there who can draw my characters at least as well as me), why not have a go at drawing or painting or photomanipulating one of the characters from Invasion? The "submit" button merely opens an email window, so I might as well make it easy for you and mention that you can send art to reinder.dijkhuis@gmail.com. (I just noticed that it was set up to send mail to an address I haven't used in over a year, so far all I know, people have been trying to send me fan art through my WCN site for months.... but probably not.) I'd especially like to hear from people involved in the Crossover Wars as several of them are or will be drawing my characters anyway.

Friday Workday

March 30th, 2007 by Reinder

If yesterday qualified as a bad day, today was a Symphony in Suck-Flat. From the ominous, discordant opening bars of "Oh my God, Photoshop Crashes on Startup Without Even Making It Past the Splash Screen" to the drawn-out, repetitive and excruciatingly slow coda of "Let Me Upload, Damn It, Xepher.net!", the dominant themes spoke to me of impending doom, anger, irritation, frustration and Man Battling an Uncaring Environment Especially His Computer. Especially noteworthy were the entirity of the middle Movement, Oh, Bugger It, I'm Not Going to Finish This Before Five and a frenzied section within the penultimate Movement, "One More Little Change Before I Can Save For Web And Upload — Oh, Wait, One More, No, Two More". Both were eminently missable.

Oh, and my headache came back, tea didn't cure it, and my concentration was shot through most of the day as a result of the red-eyed rage and panic caused by Photoshop's weird behaviour. And the fact that the cure for the Photoshop problem was to reset my preferences meant that Photoshop was annoying me in a thousand little ways for the rest of the day.

(If you run Photoshop 7 on XP and it starts crashing on startup, don't waste your time looking for the installation files; what you need to do is start it up again, hold down CTRL-SHIFT-ALT, and answer Yes to the prompt to reset your preferences. The file containing the preferences has been corrupted and you have to start anew. All your actions and swatches are in different files and won't be affected, but you'll have the standard scratch space, brushes, fonts and tool options set, so it will behave differently from what you're used to. Starts up a lot faster now, though.)

What I want to do this weekend is sleep until Monday. What I need to do is finish the colour work on Gang of Four so my editors have it on Monday morning, at least; and also to work on the ROCR pages for Tuesday and Wednesday.
What I'm actually going to do is finish my VAT returns. That shouldn't take all weekend, but the way things are going, it's likely that I'll find a way to stretch the process over two days and/or get myself blocked from the electronic submission process.

It's enough to make a guy move to Tahiti to paint nude women.

Overtime for charity

March 30th, 2007 by cmkaapjes

A working week isn't enough, not when it comes to worthy causes. To emphasize this, a community of young artists called "De nieuwe garde" (the new guard) has organized a night of voluntary overtime for charity. Webdesigners, copywriters, graphic designers, illustrators and consultants will put their combined talents to work to design advertising campaigns, websites or anything else in their power to help promote a selected number of charities.
I'll be off in a minute to be a part of this and contribute my bit to this event in my hometown of Groningen. You can follow our efforts (in Groningen, Rotterdam, The Hague, Arnhem and Amsterdam) live on www.achtuuroverwerken.nl. We'll be working untill about 2.30 CET tonight.

Thursday Workday

March 30th, 2007 by Reinder

Thursday was bad. Of all the things I wanted to get done, I only got as far as post-scan cleanup. In the afternoon, I developed a headache and the bad temper that usually goes with it.
Calvin returned from self-imposed study retreat a day early, having decided that it'd be better for him to take his Friday exam some other time. One reason he's such a powerhouse is that he picks his battles carefully. I asked him to work on the ROCR background, using the procedure I described yesterday. Didn't go well - once his work was scanned, it didn't match up at all well to the character art. In the evening, Jelena and I looked over the originals and found they matched up slightly better, but he definitely did allow the paper to slip on the light table. Also, he was still pretty frazzled from burying himself in his studies. Shouldn't have put him on the spot like that.

Looking back over the past few days, I think I should change the way I work. I don't mean cutting down on the procrastination, though that would definitely be beneficial. I'm now looking at the amount of busy-work in the process. I particularly spend far too much time on cleanup, when it would be much better not to let the materials get dirty in the first place, e.g. by working in non-repro blue pencil, and/or inking on the light table. There are reasons I don't do those things now, but ... they're not very good reasons. They all boil down to "I don't like to work that way" or "I'm afraid to work that way".

For a long time, I had a serious tactile loathing of kneaded erasers. I found them extremely unpleasant to the touch, and refused to work with them for that reason. I've managed to overcome that and now use kneaded erasers a lot, albeit merely as part of an arsenal of erasers for cleaning up my heavy-handed pencils lines. I have some formative bad experiences with non-repro blue, which amount to "this feels all wrong and shitty" but I should be able to overcome these too. As for inking on the light table, that's a bit trickier, because I like to rotate my paper a lot while inking, and, as you can see from the bit about Calvin's backgrounds above, you need to tape down or otherwise fixate your work while working on a light table. Hmmm... Calvin has a set of peg bars that I might be able to use...

The headache subsided in the evening after a cup of Darjeeling Gold Tea. Might be coincidence, might be a sign that I need to watch my fluid intake. I thought I already did that, though.

Today, I hope to get the Gang of Four comic finished, preferably before five. Though I guess it won't make much of a difference whether it arrives at 16:30 today or early on Monday morning. Not practically, anyway. It would be good for my morale if it was done today.

Wednesday Workday

March 28th, 2007 by Reinder

Wednesday was like Tuesday only slightly less so.
Went to bed at midnight-ish on Tuesday, after inking most of the top half of my Gang of Four page. Was good and tired, slept well, but woke up before the alarm. Stayed in bed until after the alarm anyway.
I arrived at work later than usual, close to 11 AM, after doing a bunch of things that I can't even remember right now. Oh yeah, posting a blog post and writing a long forum post somewhere that I then threw away because my argument sucked. I scanned Monday's character-art-only ROCR comic, cleaned it up and sent it to DFG for colouring. The backgrounds will be drawn separately; I don't quite know how we'll handle that, but I'll probably ask Calvin to draw them on a separate sheet of paper, with smaller gutters between the panels so there is some wiggle room for splicing them together. I may ask Mravac to colour the backgrounds so we have one page that the entire team has worked on.
Then, drawing the bottom half of the Gang of Four page, which started slowly but got well underway once I took up my spot in the stairwell outside. I'm getting used to working there, and even the posture aspect is getting better. Let's hope the sunny weather goes on for a little while - I just might get back on track.

I got started on the inking at a little past 4, left at 6, came back to work at nine-ish to do more inking and light table work. Most of it is done now. Tomorrow, I need to finish up the inks, add a few more backgrounds, clean up, scan, letter and colour. I don't think I'll be done at five, but I'm pretty confident I can send the material to the magazine by Friday morning. It'll be my last of the series, possibly my last ever, so I'm trying hard to make it a good one.

Quick webcomics links

March 28th, 2007 by Reinder

We're finally getting to the point in the crossover where we're actually crossing over with more than one comic. For those of you keeping score, we've so far been to:
Evil Overlords Online
CameoComic
Dog and Pony
Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic (in-comic visit only)

Bar Dork
(Drawing by Calvin Bexfield of the character in the background from Tuesday's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comic.)

Calvin drew this character in the background of Tuesday's comic, because he thought a nude woman appearing out of nowhere would raise some eyebrows. Caitlin Woods of Dog and Pony (and CameoComic) decided to keep him around for another strip. Cool. Dog and Pony, by the way, is usually a better showcase for Caitlin's art than CameoComic has been, though I've taken a liking to the looseness of Cameocomic in the past few days.

Other things I've been reading: the recent Butchless Book storyline in Liliane, Bi-Dyke has been one of the best in a long time. The tale of a dream job turning into a nightmare should be recognisable to many illustrators and cartoonists.
Sharing A Universe doesn't have much in the way of originality or characterisation, but it is a fun comic that grows on you. It's also noteworthy in that it's stayed true to its roots as a humour comic for four years now. Good call - no Cerebus Syndrome for Lynette and Alison, thank you very much.

Oh, yeah, and I keep forgetting this: The Bare-Pit has completed its Enchanted storyline and sent off my character Abúi, who had been on loan. Abúi's journey through various webcomics worlds continues in the Crossover Wars, but I don't think she'll be spending as much time in any single world as she did in that of The Bare-Pit. That comic's creator has declared a six-month hiatus to recharge his artistic batteries, so now's a good time to get all caught up and stay caught up until he returns in October.

Tuesday Workday (so far)

March 27th, 2007 by Reinder

Today was the opposite of yesterday: I spent the day feeling sleepy and out of it, but ended up at six with a difficult half of a page mostly tight-penciled. It's likely that I'll get it inked tonight.

I went to bed at 11-ish yesterday, which taking into account the switch to Daylight Savings Time is three hours earlier than my bedtime last Saturday evening. Didn't stop me from feeling sleepy well into the day. Got up at 8, made it to work before 10, didn't properly get started until noon. Luckily for me, part of the work for today involved looking up pictures of objects on Google Images, because I didn't have a folding beach chair on me, and the work crew fixing up the outdoor pool below the studio for the summer haven't started on the pool ladders yet, the bastards. Then I sketched panel actions in my sketchbook, so I knew how much space everything would take. Then I went outside with the Improvised Backing Board to rough-pencil the page itself. At some point while working on that I lost track of time again, because when I came back in to have another look at those pool ladders, it was three PM. Well, better for that to happen while I'm doing actual work, I guess.

After all that ground work, tightening up the pencils and filling in the details was actually easy, and most of that was done in an hour and a half, while still feeling sleepy.

It's now ten minutes to eight in the evening, it's getting dark, and I'm waking up. Slowly, but surely, I'm becoming more alert. I think this goes a little beyond adjusting to Daylight Savings Time, though Jeroen did mention that he and people he knew were affected by that.

Baaah

March 26th, 2007 by cmkaapjes


Meet the parents?

While a large portion of the Western world is worried about the nuclear threat Iran supposedly poses, personally I'm more spooked by a different development. Dr. Esmail Zanjani, an Iranian scientist working in Nevada, has now reached new levels spooky science. A sheep whose organs are half human, making it a 85% sheep 15 % human hybrid.
Really, I don't have to bring up a list of sheep diseases to tell you what kind of a baaaaad idea this is?

Maybe I've been frightened by science-fiction writers, perhaps I've been warned. I don't believe in acceptable risks, not when the stakes are this high.
What is our Christian leader doing looking overseas once again while this threat to the human race is being harbored in America's bosom?

News story here. First read on Boingboing.

What my workday was like (and is like far, far too often)

March 26th, 2007 by Reinder

(Boring, journal-type post below, but sort of important to my ability to do my job)

At the start of the workday, I was pretty on the ball. I arrived at ten-ish (which is normal - early rising disagrees with me, as does hurrying my breakfast), fixed an already-published comic, finished and set up two more, so that the website is all set until Friday. So far so good, except that by the time I was done, it was noon. I wrote the previous blog entry, which was about my workload, then went on with my next task which was printing out some paperwork (a copy of my Verklaring Arbeidsrelatie for magazine clients that hire me as a freelancer to draw comics) and sticking that in an envelope. Then work on next Monday's ROCR comic, which I really should have finished yesterday. I sat outside in the stairwell of the building at Papiermolenlaan 3 with my penciled art on my knees, on an improvised backing board, so I could catch some rays, popping back inside occasionally to check my email or pour myself a cup of tea. For the first time ever, I took my ink jar outside and inked the page, except for one panel that needs light table work. Done by two - not bad. Mind you, that's just the character art, because I'm still hoping Calvin will be able to find the time to do the backgrounds. Still, I'll go on working like this for as long as the weather remains sunny. There are drawbacks: the posture is bad for the back and bad for control over arm movements, the ink tends to congeal in the ink jar while outside, and it will be a while before I can work as well outside as inside; but on the positive side, there are fewer distractions and I get some fresh air.
Half past two and I've corrected the page. Time for a grocery break. Back at three. Lunch. Half-hearted attempts at developing additional characters and costumes that I'll need in Gang of Four. I get a bit sleepy. Suddenly, Jelena is making moves to call it a day, I look up and it's nearly five o'clock. Since I have some errands to run and am planning to be back after running group training this evening, I leave early.

If you've kept count, after my break, two hours pretty much disappeared, with nothing to show for them but some bad sketches in my sketchbook. What did I do? Some of that time was spent reading The War Nerd, but that doesn't take two hours.

I think the important bit is where I mention I got sleepy. Coffee after lunch might have helped. Or a smaller lunch. That sandwich toaster Jelena brought in just might turn out to be a tool of the devil.

Or it might be the result of daylight savings time, which started the night between Saturday and Sunday. I'd been looking forward to the switch (running practice in daylight! Yay!) but when it happened, it took my by surprise. I'd been up late on Saturday, working. On Sunday, I was in a bad mood for most of the day, all the way into the evening, when I practiced with my band for the first time in many months. I enjoyed it, despite the marked decline in my already limited playing chops, but I was more than a bit moody and not entirely with it. And I definitely didn't get enough sleep last night - effectively having to get up an hour early.

If it's DST, the problem should go away soon enough. But if it's something else, I need to hunt it down and kill it. Expect a few more boring, journal-type posts over the next few days while I sort it out.