So if you didn't notice from the episode title page ;), this is a flashback episode. Don't worry, it'll be brief--only about twelve pages (not counting the title page), in fact. Also pretty punchy. It might just be the best episode EVER.
NASA and ASU just released Moon-wide high-resolution maps taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Here's a sample:
image by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/DLR/ASU (source)
Photos of Saturn gathered by the Cassini probe have been put together to show the evolution of the longest-lasting storm ever recorded on the ringed gas giant:
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (source)
That "great white spot" was a bit wider than Earth, and over its record 200-day lifespan has grown into a storm band that encircles Saturn. According to this article, only five other white storms like this have been observed on Saturn in the past 135 years.
Today's page is the third of four attempts. The first took hours and hours, following the pencil, ink, wash process I've sort of been building up--it took all that time, I say, and came out badly. This has made me realize that a lot of the more fundamental problems I'm having with these pages come from the pencil stage; I've been working in a thin, hard, mechanical pencil lead, so light it's hard to see, and it can't be used to do shading very effectively to test things out; also, I'm on a relatively thin (70 lb) paper at the moment, and it probably couldn't take really heavy pencil and eraser work--not without risk of damage, anyway. It's also been "buckling" (also called "cockling"--anyway, warping in random waves that form distracting light and dark patterns across the scanned pages) a bit from the ink and wash layers I've been applying, AND unlike the fifteen year old acid-having pad I did my initial tests on, this new acid-free stuff doesn't really show the ink any brighter than the cheap (I now realize) Strathmore Bristol I was using earlier.
So it's time to upgrade my materials again, I think: I want to get one of those cool "lead holder" pencil-like things some of the pros use, so I can really throw graphite around heavily; I think the give and take, fighting it out that I used to do digitally with the lasso tool is going to have to take place at the pencil stage, because ink takes, but doesn't really give. :P So I need to pencil (and erase) heavily to work out a dynamic image, because all the inking in the world won't fix a dull pencil sketch. Gar!
And to do that I also need a sturdy paper, and ideally one that will buckle less from liquids, and show ink more brilliantly. I hear good things about this fancy French "Arches" (pronounced "arsh") paper, and if I get it in bulk packs at the local art supply store and cut the sheets carefully, it'll only cost a bit over $1 per A* page, which really isn't that bad for 140 lb bright white hot press top quality watercolor paper. Hopefully they have some in stock when I storm over there tomorrow. I'm not sure they have the lead holders, so I may just have to order that online; speaking of which, I've also got a couple more paper pads, these by Canson, another French company, on their way from dickblick.com; one is another 70 lb drawing pad, which I now realize probably won't work because it's too light for the washes I want to do, but the other is a 140 lb illustration pad, and it supposedly has a special surface treatment that minimizes bleeding or something and makes it great for pencil and pen and ink. So I'm kind of interested in seeing how that does when it gets here, although it does have an "ultra-smooth" surface that I'm not too sure I'll like.
Anyhoo, so this surviving version of today's page was freehanded without any pencil layout--fortunately it was a pretty simple subject, so it only came out a *little* funky looking. It does have a nice dynamic free ink look that most of my pages have lacked, though, so I need to find a way--hopefully by some of the means described above: heavier paper and pencil and attacking--to marry that with reasonably accurate layouts.
Sat Nov 19, 2011 11:31 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2885
Got the paper and lead holder! Excited about trying these out on Monday's page (the paper's too expensive to waste on a test page, hehe).
^ First page done with my fancy new pencil and paper! The pencil is a German-made Staedtler Technico 2mm Lead Holder (kind of a mechanical pencil that holds whole pencil leads--I'm using "HB" leads, sort of a soft but not too soft variety), and the paper is French-made Arches Watercolor Paper, specifically the Bright White 140lb Hot Press variety; it's expensive stuff, but my local art store actually has a relatively great rate on it, and if I cut carefully I can get 4 A* pages out of a single 22"x30" sheet, so it only comes out to about $1/page, which ain't bad for what lots of people seem to think is the bestest paper in the world.
So far this stuff seems to be helping. The 2mm leads are softer and much thicker than the 0.5mm H leads I'd been using in my old mechanical pencil, and the paper is a lot tougher, so I can do a lot of sketching and erasing, and experimenting with light and dark at the pencil stage before having to commit to ink. It's a very good set-up for detailed modelling, actually, which could potentially get me wasting a lot of time since the pencils are mostly erased later anyway, replaced by ink. ;) For instance, in sketching out this page I really got into rendering the face seen in the television monitor, even though I knew I was going to cover it in black ink:
But what that did do was force me to get the rest of the head worked out pretty well, so maybe that wasn't such a waste of time after all.
The Arches paper has this really nice, almost cloth-like feel to it; it isn't the zippy tang I liked in the old acidic sketchpad I first started testing ink wash on, but it's quite a pleasurable surface to work on in its own way--so much nicer than the dead, spongy feel of that cheap Bristol I tried a while back (I'm still kind of curious to see what Strathmore's top-line Bristol is like, although it costs over $1/page, and I can't see it being better than the Arches stuff). And black ink on it has an almost velvety quality, ooh. And not least of all, it doesn't rumple up when it gets wet, which is quite handy when working with ink wash!
But actually what I wanted to talk about today was
Starcrash! How have I never seen this movie? An Italian-produced spaghetti sci-fi, it was pumped out in 1979, ie as quickly as possible after the amazing success of 1977's Star Wars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on particular movie-viewing needs), it was bad. Real bad. How bad? Well, the trailer starts out with "You are about to be hurled..."
^ This page was another instance where I had the whole thing done, scanned, ready to post...and only then realized the head was placed wrong, and had to repaint it. And like the last time, the head came out way better the second time around anyway. So I should probably just redo my heads every time and the comic would be that much better! (And that much more delayed, yargh.)
This time around was different though in that, thanks to the darker pencil I'm working with now, I could tell as I was sketching the layout that the head wasn't *quite* right; but I made that critical art error: I was so fond of the way I'd drawn that part that I didn't want to erase it and redo it, and so fooled myself into leaving it by saying 'oh, it's pretty close, it'll work out.' I should know by now that something that just slightly irritates me in the early going will keep me from sleeping in the final version. ;P So I gotta be more ruthless with my eraser, and no matter how charming a piece of the drawing may be by itself, if it doesn't fit with the rest of the scene, it's gotta be obliterated immediately. No mercy!
Here's the original version of the head:
Just a bit too big--especially since this is a sort of tricky double perspective: it's an side-angled view of a flat screen, plus that screen is tilted away from us. Why I decide to try these things, I dunno. :P (And like a dummy I refuse to graph out my perspective, since well that's boring, and anyway one/two/three point perspective isn't really how our eyes see perspective anyway (see: curvilinear perspective)--so I prefer a less precise but more naturalistic eyeballed approach; although, I *did* use a ruler for the first time for drawing A* in this page! Look at me I'm a big boy now--actually I shouldn't have done it, on the same principles as why I don't graph perspective, but eh I was having a hard time getting the screen to feel straight, especially cutting behind the arm in the foreground.) I suppose the head was probably a bit too cartoony, too. And I did so love the delicate ink wash on it, sigh; the replacement head is straight black and white because the white ink used to cover up the old head is not waterproof, so you can't do any ink wash over it.
An interesting article appeared on the ESA's Hubble site lately: Hubble Directly Observes the Disc Around a Black Hole. Because the target galaxy--or quasar, specifically--HE 1104-1805, is behind another one, [WKK93] G, the one in front bends light coming from the more distant one around it; so for instance in this Hubble view, the farther galaxy appears twice, since the foreground galaxy (the sorta blurry crescent in the middle) bends the light from the more distant one toward us along multiple trajectories:
image by NASA, ESA and J.A. Muñoz (University of Valencia) (source)
That's neat, but how the researchers were able to use the lensing galaxy as a sort of telescope was really tricky: as stars in the foreground galaxy passed in front of the light from the distant quasar, they bent individual beams of light from the quasar's central disc into Hubble's lens; by reading these individual beams, the team could define the size of the distant quasar's disc--the superheated material spiraling into the supermassive black hole at the center of the quasar--much more precisely than they could have from the blurrier, less precise view normally afforded of the quasar; they could read the color, and thus the temperature, and thus original nearness to the center of the supermassive black hole of each beam of light--the light is bluer/hotter near the center (until it crosses the event horizon of course, but an object that size would be impossible to see at this distance anyway, probably)--and ultimately determined that the central disc "is between four and eleven light-days across."
That's vague, but still way better than they could have done otherwise. The article doesn't say exactly (or even approximately) how far away HE 1104-1805 is thought to be, but there are mentions of scales in "billions of light years" so maybe it's something in that range, which is pretty far. Some of the data on this page might help the scientifically inclined make a more precise determination, but all those galactic coordinate systems and such are a bit beyond me!
Oh yeah, here's a diagram showing the "magnifying glass" effect I was trying to describe above, where precise beams of light from the quasar are deflected into Hubble's telescope lens by stars in the foreground galaxy:
The pencils for this page, before they got all ink washed up:
Tomorrow (well technically today since it's past midnight but nevermind that) is Turkey Day here in the U S of A, which means it's time to gather into our family groups and gorge ourselves even more than usual. I will try to hold off on the gorging enough that I can get back in a sufficiently conscious state to make a decent comic page, but I can make no guarantees of my success in that endeavor! You will, though, have this amusing compilation of mooninauts falling over to keep you company (darn that tricky low gravity!):
The link to that lovely little film came to me by way of @racerabbit on Twitter. :)
An animation of the later stages of pencil work for this page:
That final twist of the shoulders made the figure more dynamic, but it also complicated things for me later; in the inks I subconsciously carried the twist upward into the face, which turned slightly to follow the shoulders--but because this was subconscious (bad artist, bad!) the change wasn't made completely, particularly to the profile of the cheekbone and nose. Here's the first version I uploaded, before I realized that:
See the difference? Darn tricky subconscious grumble grumble...
I hope those of you who were into it had a nice day of turkey eating and such! I've almost got through all my leftovers already :d
I accidentally discovered a kinda cool effect working on this page. The last thing I did was add eyeballs (I was going to have the eyes be blank white but then that seemed like a little much), and the wash on the right one (her left) was a bit darker than I'd wanted, and I knew it had some pencil under it, so I thought I'd just give it a little rub with the eraser to see if that lightened it a bit; well, I hadn't waited long enough for the wash to dry, so it brought away part of the paper under the wash in this nifty iris-like pattern! Neato, thanks paper.
If you haven't checked out A*'s deviantART page, well gosh! Not only is there lots and lots of stuff there--the pick of the litter from my artwork on multiple things, including A*--oh and here's that nice shiny button link to go there, so much more enticing than a boring old text link right?
So yeah not only is there loads of my better stuff there, I've lately been posting the uncropped versions of some of the more successful of the ink wash A* pages--so you can see the bits around the edges that don't fit into the online comic page; in some cases it's an extra, not inconsiderable amount of the image! For instance here's the uncropped version of episode 13, page 143, which I'm just hotlinking from deviantART heehee
Kind of fleshes it out a bit, right? So yeah go over to the A* deviantART page for more of those.
With the new paper I've been using this week, I can only leave tiny margins if I want to get as many A* pages out of each rather expensive paper sheet as I can, so the margins on the newer stuff won't be as big as on some of the old ones--BUT since I have to hand-cut them anyway, I'm cutting them so that it's close to even all around, and instead of having to draw a little framing rectangle on in pencil so I know where the actual visible web image will be, I just paint right to the edges of the paper. Eh okay that sounds like a load of gibberish; here's a photo of the latest page to show what I mean:
The cut paper size is about 17"x7.5", and the actual area that ends up fitting into the final online version of the A* page is 16"x6.75".
Also, I *finally* got a little hand mirror to keep by my drawing table, so I can check my own face for drawing reference instead of having to get up and run off to the bathroom mirror to remind myself, say, how lips look. :P Been using that since a couple pages ago, and it's already been pretty useful! I'd heard for ages how like Disney and other animators would all have little mirrors handy, to help capture expressions and stuff in their drawing, and I'd said to myself say that sounds like it couldn't hurt, I should get a little mirror one of these days, but I only just now finally did it, sheesh. It was 'cause I was reading this article on drawing characters by Lora Innes and it said pretty much exactly the same thing, and I was like okay I'm tired of hearing this over and over I'll just go get one stop nagging me already internet!