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Behind the Scenes: Lynch & Lucas

In terms of the sheer amount of time spent on each page, Lynch & Lucas is probably the most labor-intensive comic I’ve ever done, so I thought it might be nice to do a quick overview of where all that time went.

The comic’s text comes from this short interview with David Lynch. My first task was to get a transcription that I could work from. First I thought I would have to transcribe it by hand, but then I remembered that YouTube generates a transcript automatically! (Click on the “…” icon and choose “Open transcript”.) It wasn’t perfect but it was more than good enough for my purposes. I printed it out and reworked my script on paper. If you watch the video you’ll notice that I rearranged the order of some of the sentences, but other than that the whole thing is more or less verbatim.

Next I had to figure out how I was going to draw the characters. Drawing likenesses is not one of my strong suits so it took some experimentation to come up with the best way to do it. Generally I just redraw the person over and over again until I hit on a simplification that seems to work. With George Lucas it took a few tries, most of which looked nothing like him at all, before I got a result that seemed usable:
George Lucas sketch process

Note that I also switched to a brush pen before doing the final drawing there. Maybe that helped get a good result; who knows. In any event, I thought that one brush pen drawing ended up being a better likeness of Lucas than most of the appearances in the final comic. Oh well!

David Lynch was next up. Since the comic features both his younger and older likenesses, I had to figure out how to draw both. I started with his current look.
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Color flatting for Linux!

Hello everyone! If you’re like me, you’ve spent plenty of time thinking, “I wish Linux had an automated color-flatting tool.” Well, your days of wishing and hoping are over, because I have produced exactly the tool you’ve been wishing for. Behold:
pyflatter

For more information, check out the PyFlatter page, or just go download it on GitHub. Enjoy!

Behind the Scenes of The Non-Seen

As I launch into the exciting world of Chapter 2, I thought this might be a nice time to give you all a little peek into the process of making each page. Let’s take a look at the making of Page 1, start to finish.

The page begins as a script. I went back and forth a lot on what to open the chapter with, and ultimately decided to show Claire waking up on the first page, then cut to the parents talking on the second and third pages. Here’s what my script said:

We open with Claire awakening the following morning, happy at first and then transitioning to irritation as she thinks back to the events of the night before. She wants answers. She gets up.

Ruth is out at the shoreline, collecting marine life samples. Alan meets her with a cup of coffee on the way to the lighthouse. They discuss his dreams and his unsettled thoughts over the last couple days. Ruth mentions that she’s going on a trawling trip later.

As you can see, my scripts generally don’t include dialogue or any sort of blocking; I find that stuff easier to work out in thumbnails. Here’s how I initially broke down these three pages:
First draft- thumbnails for first three pages

As you may have noticed, these pages don’t really resemble that which I finally drew. These were a first draft and I ultimately scrapped them and tried again. (The slashes across the pages indicate that they are not for use in the final comic.) I eliminated the page with Claire because it seemed unnecessary and because I have a bad tendency to start chapters with characters waking up. Instead I decided to jump straight to the parents, and to merge their two pages into one, as it seemed a lot of that was filler. Here’s the final thumbnail (with this and all other images, I will display only the first panel. Click to see the rest):

second_draft_small

As you can see, the dialogue and blocking are more or less solidified at this point, and the panel arrangements have been decided.
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Unity Test

I’ve been wanting to gain some familiarity with the Unity game engine, so I did a little test with some old assets from Into the Titan. This, as you may recall, is the darkroom and the hallway leading up to it. I baked some nice lightmaps, which makes it considerably prettier. Comparison images are below the jump.

Meteorite Research Center passageway in Unity

Darkroom in Unity

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Small Game Project #2

church02_th

Texturing is not done, but it looks pretty nice already (at least I think so). I’m painting these textures by hand in watercolor. Most of the lighting here is dynamic (enabling a nice flashlight effect, not shown here), although the sunbeams on the floor are baked. More to come!

Small Game Project #1

Click to enlarge

What’s this? Apparently I’m making a small game, maybe. More details to come.

Justice Canyon Remix

Doing a little project to become better acquainted with Blender Game Engine features which have been around for an embarrassingly long time now. Here’s the Justice Canyon arrival area (from Into the Titan), by day and night. All dynamic lighting.
Justice Canyon 1 - Day

Justice Canyon 2 - Night

More to come…?

Using CGI in Vector Artwork

I’ve been making some vector icons for a client and one of them involved a slide carousel… not exactly something easy to draw in SVG! However, I took a quick shortcut through 3D which I’m now going to share with you. Take a look:

  1. I started by modeling a simple slide carousel in Blender, which took only a few minutes. I only needed the shapes, not the lighting, so I rendered it with some shadeless materials, thusly:CGI basis for slide carousel
  2. I then used Illustrator’s auto-tracing function to get the shapes from the render. Since the source image was very high-contrast, the tracer did a great job for once. At this stage I also drew in many of the simpler shapes, primarily circles.
  3. Finally, I imported the Illustrator file into Inkscape to apply gradient fills, because Illustrator’s gradient tools are a leading cause of brain cancer in graphic designers. (It’s true!) The slide dividers benefit nicely from some clever banded circular gradients, to give this final result:Final vector artwork, slide carousel

Not bad! Had I tried to draw this from scratch in Illustrator, I’d probably still be working… instead it took less than half an hour, and is about as photoreal as vector graphics can be.

Flattening Out

Perspective is always somewhat of a struggle for me, so I’m doing some experiments to see if I can come up with an elegant drawing style that might allow me to bypass the vanishing point entirely. These two drawings represent my first foray along these lines, so expect more as this develops. These are just based on some photographs I had on my hard drive; both depict the Willimantic Camp Meeting Association in Willimantic, CT. Fellow artists, please do weigh in on these.

Tabernacle

Campground cottages

On Location (Digitally)

Perspective is always a challenge. This is doubly true when working with scenes that don’t exist. Some of the first scenes in Sunrise Issue 10 take place in an enormous hangar containing an airship. What’s an artist to do in this situation? Well, why not build an airship hangar?

Nefertiti In Hangar, 1

Nefertiti In Hangar, 2

Not a real hangar, obviously… a couple hours in Blender and I’ve thrown together this lovely digital hangar which has already saved me endless frustration. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, this is a digital 3D model which the computer can render from any angle. Of course, the excitement doesn’t end with accurate perspective, because this is also a lit model! Take a gander:

Nefertiti In Hangar, rendered

My “people” are made of blocks, yes, but still, it’s nice to know where all the shadows fall.

With this in hand, I can go back to my paper and ultimately produce this:

Nefertiti in Hangar, complete

Accurate perspective and realistic lighting, with no cursing or sobbing required. Computers, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s give them a big hand.

©John W. Allie 2018. | Contact?