Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent

 Years ago, I did a comic-strip.  

 The way it got started was that I used to work as a security-guard and a factory.  I worked 2nd shift, and my shift consisted of one hour walking the plant followed by one hour sitting in an office and manning the phone.  There was a LOT of down time, and I spent that time drawing. 

 One night, I was inspired by an infomercial for a product called "Curves".  These were basically false-breasts, complete with sculpted nipples, made of a latex-gel that conformed to a woman's breast through her body-heat when placed in her bra.  This would give her extra lift and add a couple of cup sizes.  The comic was about a guy who had been taken in by these enhancements, only to have them fall in his lap when his paramour, lost in the moment, forgot she was wearing them.

 I thought it was hilarious, as did apparently several fans I didn't know I had back then.  There appreciation spawned an attempt at a regular strip which featured some direct references to my friends, in particular one Bud Weiser.

 No, seriously.  That's the guy's name.

 Anyhoo, if there were a dozen strips by the time I gave it up, I'd be surprised.  I found making comic strip to be time consuming, especially for a guy holding down a job, school, and several girlfriends.  That, and it was hard to be funny each and every week.  As usual, I had gone head-long into something, bit off more than I could chew, and had to shelve the idea for a little while.

 A little while turned into about 10 years.

 My friend, Bud, really liked the comics, and the idea of making a comic.  He took the two main characters, "Jason" and "Bud", and in his own style did his own strip, "The Adventures of Bud and Jason" as seen on Tapeworm Studios on Facebook. The comic came in fits and starts because, hey, Bud has a life too.  

 Meanwhile, I kept being funny.  I'd crack jokes to my kids, my friends, and my girlfriend, making comments on things we saw and telling ridiculous stories.  My girlfriend thought that stand-up comedy might be something to look into, and I studied the art for a short time and got in the habit of writing ideas down... bits for what could have been my stand-up routine.  Still, I never fully embraced the idea of doing stand-up, especially since I was already juggling so many other balls in my life.

 One day, Bud got in touch with me.  He was (and still is) working on a book of comic-strips, and he wanted to mine what I had done years ago for ideas, along with my blogs on tattooing and what-not.  I agreed, and I checked out what he had done so far.  Seeing these characters again, well, it got me itching to get back into comic strips.  My daughter, Gabrielle, further encouraged this idea.  She has recently took a real interest in comic-books, and was amazed that I had drawn some strip and gave it up.

 So, I pulled together all the stuff I had made a decade ago, the original strips with one cell per page on photocopy paper, different sketches and notes I had made, etc.  I also pulled out my stand-up comedy ideas, and I began writing.  In a day, I came up with about two dozen ideas worth making into comic strips, ideas good enough that they immediately invoked images in my mind.  

 Only a few were revisions of old strips, the rest being new ideas featuring "Jason", "Bud", and "Tyler" (the character from the first strip I had done).  I had developed what I consider a fairly distinctive style, artistically, which while far more simple than my regular artistic efforts was also a bit more complex than many comic strips.  I began studying how to make comics, looking for ways to reduce the labor and time involved.  

 I ran across and essay written by Bill Watterson, the creator of "Calvin and Hobbes", who discussed his process.  First, his process is very low-tech, using just three different kinds of pens and brushes.  Second, he doesn't do the complete drawing in pencil first, rather he sketches out the basic cell and then finishes it in ink.  I was in the habit of drawing the cell out fully and then inking the art.  Third, he draws his art to size, using a template for his cells and strips.  While bigger than the size the strip will be printed in, it is smaller than the 8X10" format of my cells, cutting down on time and effort.  Despite these time-saving techniques, Mr. Watterson might only make 6 strips a day.  This suggested to me that, with practice, I could do more than a strip a day (or two days), but also that even for a professional it takes time to do a strip.

 Other artists are a bit more high-tech, and I borrowed ideas from them as well.  I created a template for my cells, just all 11X14" bristol board witn four 4X6" rectangles cut out of it.  I use this template for both vertical and horizontal cells.  Next, borrowing from Mr. Watterson, I draw in the text first.  I do this just to get an idea of the size and placement of the speech-bubbles, the text itself gets filled in on Photoshop.  I sketch in the characters and other elements with a pencil, finishing them in ink.

 For backgrounds and foregrounds, especially since I will be using the same settings over and over again, I decided to draw certain settings with no characters or additional elements.  For example, "Jason" is a tattoo artist who works at a shop.  Many of his strips will open with him drawing at a counter waiting on a customer.  Behind him are tattoo stations, small rooms for tattooing.  I drew all this out on an 11X14" board, and then scanned it into my computer.  Now, when I do a tattoo-shop comic, I just need to drop the background behind the characters and add whatever elements I want.  If a character has a particular default pose (like Jason drawing at the counter), then this is also scanned into the computer as a distinct element for easy use later on.

 I ink the drawings using a Micron pen and a sharpie, correcting with White-Out when needed.  All other clean-up is done in Photoshop, as is the cell-formatting for the finished strip. The finished strip is saved in at least two sized, one high resolution for eventual merchandising, and one low resolution for use on the web.  I've managed to do about three strips a day, and since I only need to do one a week, I am well ahead of my deadline.

 I posted two of the strips on the series's current home:  Like almost any project I engage in, it has to earn its own way.  Eventually, I'd like the strip on its own web-site, which is why I did not place it on my main page.  In order to merit a website of its own, it needs to earn about $10 a month.  Meanwhile, I am collaborating with Bud again, and have my process down to a routine. Some merchandise, mostly prints of the strips, is in the works.  Check out the comic and comment when you get the urge.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Art for the Masses!

 Wants something a little different for your walls?

 Jason Sorrell of Creative Oddities Studios has designed three new posters featuring some of his fans favorite pieces.  These posters are a huge 23X35", larger than any print or poster we have offered in the past, and they are selling for just $19.99 plus shipping and handling.  Get yours by visiting our website: