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A* Episode 15 
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Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm
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Here's the latest page of my Princess and the Giant fairy tale webcomic that I did this past weekend:

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and I also took a photograph of it when it was just pencils:

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~~~~~~~~

Speaking of this past weekend, on Saturday the International Space Station had to fire its thrusters to dodge debris from the remains of a Chinese satellite that that country destroyed in a test in 2007, scattering some 3,000 pieces of debris into low Earth orbits. And earlier this month it had to dodge debris from a 2009 collision between American and Russian satellites.

Eep! The article says that there are currently about 6,000 tons of junk orbiting the Earth, 500,000 pieces of which are "tracked every day by NASA and the U.S. military's Space Surveillance Network."


Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:12 am
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I've heard this song plenty of times but I'd never seen the singer:



Troops of black body-suited clones... Hm! Well apparently I've been using Swedish singer/songwriter September as Selenis all this time and never knew it! And her dad is an astrophysicist, go figure. Anyway she or her stylists have some pretty A*-ish tastes:

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We do have one more hairstyle change coming up in this episode. Oh the possibilities!

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A thoughtful reader on Google+ tipped me off to this G+ post which links to (Flash required) this "360VR" view of the Space Shuttle Discovery's cockpit during decommissioning (on June 22, 2011, if that's what the caption means).

So many switches! :o I wonder if there'd be less if they redesigned it now with a multitasking OS, so you didn't, like, need a separate physical control panel and screen for everything--that's kind of how I design ship cockpits in A*, although I'll throw in a few extra buttons or screens for looks now and then. >_>

Now I could take it several steps further and have controls handled entirely by eh holographic input screens or thought control or something like that, I suppose, but I dunno, there's something about switches and buttons and joysticks that's more satisfying than those fancy intangible things.


Wed Feb 01, 2012 5:28 am
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Space Shuttle Discovery, which I was talking about yesterday, was the first Space Shuttle to be retired (final landing March 9th, 2011), and once all the dangerous bits I suppose are taken out, it's due to replace Space Shuttle Enterprise at the Smithsonian.

Enterprise is an interesting case, as it wasn't a fully functional shuttle, but rather a prototype built without engines or heat shield. What could it do without those? Gliding landing tests! Here's are links to the two parts of the contemporary newscast (dig the old TV commercials in there) from its first free flight and landing, on August 12th, 1977, after it was taken up to gliding altitude on the back of a modified 747: part 1, mated takeoff and climb, and part 2, separation and landing.

In that video you can see Enterprise sporting a jaunty white cone over where a shuttle's engine thrusters would normally be:

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image by NASA (source)

Enterprise was retired in 1984, took a tour of Europe and North America, and then went to the Smithsonian, where it has been ever since:

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image by Ad Meskens (source)


Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:19 am
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I don't remember quite how this happened but anyway I recently came across the supercontinent cycle page on Wikipedia. Now we've probably all heard of Pangaea and all, but that was only the most *recent* supercontinent--there were loads of others before Pangaea! And the first supercontinent might've been one called Ur that formed about 3 billion years ago (although some might say Vaalbara preceded it by about 600,000,000 years, but Vaalbara was a tiny little thing maybe about the size of South Africa, whereas Ur was maybe close to the size of Australia, and, I dunno, you gotta draw the line somewhere, ya know?

And Ur lasted right up until Pangaea broke up, leading to the modern continents--what was Ur is now in bits of Africa, Australia, and India. Here's the play-by-play from Wikipedia:
Quote:
~3 billion years ago, Ur formed as the only continent on Earth.
~2.8 billion years ago, Ur was a part of the major supercontinent Kenorland.
~2 billion years ago, Ur was a part of the major supercontinent Columbia.
~1 billion years ago, Ur was a part of the major supercontinent Rodinia.
~550 million years ago, Ur was a part of the major supercontinent Pannotia.
~300 million years ago, Ur was a part of the major supercontinent Pangaea.
~208 million years ago, Ur was torn apart into parts of Laurasia and Gondwana.
~65 million years ago, the African part of Ur was torn apart as part of India.
~Present, Ur is part of Australia and Madagascar.

Or, in a more general perspective given by this article (which also has a nice illustration showing these continental shifts):
Quote:
Rogers says Ur was the first continent, formed three billion years ago, followed by Arctica half a billion years later. Another half a billion years passed before Baltica and Atlantica emerged. The four continents roamed separately until, about one-and-a-half billion years ago, Arctica and Baltica collided with what is now eastern Antarctica to form Nena.

When Nena, Atlantica, and Ur came together one billion years ago, the supercontinent Rodinia was born. After 300 million years, the three landmasses separated for about 400 million years, then came back together in a new configuration, Pangea.

Ur was more or less invented by University of North Carolina geologist John Rogers in 1996, when he pieced it together in a paper called "A History of Continents in the Past Three Billion Years," in which he noted that those bits of three current continents all dated back to about 3 billion years, and had been together in Pangaea--so that meant they were probably a continent that had existed by itself before the younger rocks around it.

I mostly just like the names some of these old continents have. "Ur" is nice, and I suppose Rogers just got that from the ancient Sumerian city-state of the same name. "Arctica" as named above is pretty nice, and there's also Atlantica. And all right, I guess Vaalbara is a pretty cool name, too.

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Just a couple other interesting articles I saw linked from one of those sites: Alzheimers spreads like a virus from neuron to neuron is an interesting one from the A* neuroscience perspective, and then are you ready for Russians about to breach 20-million-year-old lake in Antarctica? Man there could be some crazy stuff in there.


Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:40 am
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If today's page looks familiar, you may recall one of the first A* ink and brush practice pieces I did back in October:

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I always did like how kind of loose and wild that one was, especially in the hair region. I can't use that old acidy paper for the real A* pages ;_;, but maybe I can try to get back to more of the way I did that one, having to do a lot of the design work in ink because the pencils were very sketchy. And anyway I've found I tend to be happiest with the pages in which I kind of let the ink do its own thing (or rather, it does its own thing on its own), like

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and

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and I don't think I remembered to mention it at the time, but this one was done without any preliminary pencil work--just straight ink on paper:

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I can't usually get away with that, but still I want to try developing the images more with the ink. So we'll see! (Huh those ^ were all straight-on eye shots...) Something that ought to help is getting some a fresh brush to paint with, since this nice Winsor & Newton Series 7 I've been using can't quite keep a point anymore; it kept its point for about two months (40-some pages?) I think, which was about twice as long as the Da Vinci "Maestro" brush I was using before it, which was half the price--go figure!

I think I'll also pick up a dip pen (sometimes called a "crow quill") too, since they're pretty affordable, especially compared to the nicer brushes, and I realize now that a lot of the artists whose ink work I like used them--those old black and white pulp adventure strips, for instance. I do find it interesting though that all the stuff I've read from people comparing pens vs brush for inking says that the brush is a lot harder to get used to--whereas I feel perfectly comfortable with it for some reason. So I should probably just stick with it, but I'm curious about the pens so I at least wanna see what it's like to mess around with one. And I would think I could find some sort of use for it alongside brushes.

So starting next week the art might be getting a bit (more) experimental and weird for a bit while I try out some different techniques and approaches. I'll try to keep it mostly legible... Thanks for sticking with me as I figure out how I want to ink stuff! :)


Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:47 am
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So apparently I have a thing for drawing women's feet--it is nice to learn such things about oneself! Huh. Anyway here are some more feet I drew over the weekend, these are for my Sunday fantasy comic The Princess and the Giant--but they're in hot lava so that's totally different and stuff, right?

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Oh yeah and I got a new brush! Painting with a new brush is fun, they're so frisky and subtle! So things should be a bit sharper for a while, until I wear this one down too. Actually I read somewhere that the real thing that prevents them from forming a proper point after a while is ink getting dried up in the ferrule--the metal tube clasping the bristles onto the handle. I'm kind of tempted to try leaving the old one in some really strong soap solution overnight to see if it can get that stuff out and rejuvenate the brush, but something tells me it can't be that easy to resurrect them. Hm, well, worth a try I suppose, then at least I'll know!

EDIT: Ah and I forgot I'd snapped a photo of the pencil stage of today's page:

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And on second thought I'm not sure I should try that strong soap bath to resurrect the old brush, since it could just as well take out the glue holding the bristles on, and then I've got no brush at all (currently it's handy for secondary stuff like white ink--which is too thick to use with a thin point anyway--or just adding water). So maybe I'd better wait until I have *two* old brushes, then try it on one of them. :P


Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:29 am
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I'm not sure what happy stars aligned but for some reason I got a lot of nice feedback and support from readers in the last day or so, which was really enjoyable and encouraging. :) In fact I think it was pretty definitely the largest spontaneous outbreak of support A* has had ever. Gosh! Thanks to everyone who wrote in -- and to all those lovely readers who have written me at some point over the past several years!

Okay I have something else I did this weekend to show you! With that hot lava painting I showed yesterday I mentioned I'd got a new brush--but I also picked up a few other items (Christmas gift certificate! <3 :)) when I was at the mega local art supply store this weekend! A few of them assemble into something called a "dip pen," which is pretty much like a fountain pen, with a split sort of spade-shaped metal tip, only it came before the "fountain" part, so you have to dip it into an ink well every few lines or so. It sounds crazy but apparently lots of comics have been made with such things, and I wanted to try one out, and they're pretty cheap, so I did! This first bunch of doogles (haha that's an interesting typo for "doodles," I think I'll just leave it :D (probably Google's fault :p)) are pretty awful, but I was mostly just trying to see what kinds of marks the crazy pen would make:

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Lots of fairly even lines! That drawing's about 7" per side. I tried another quicky on Sunday, partly to see if I could do large black areas with the pen, but I couldn't really for technical reasons I'll go into tomorrow (I know, I know, you can't wait! :P), so eventually I settled for finishing it, as it were, with just a lot of cross hatching:

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Aside from the sloppy rushed anatomy, which wasn't the pen's fault, I rather like how that came out (the part you see there is about 10.5" per side)! You can definitely get a nice sharp look with the pen, and now I think I understand a lot more of why a lot of comics look the way they do. I'm thinking that I'll incorporate the dip pen into my work alongside the brush, at least for certain textures and effects. I can't start on that quite yet though because I...got the wrong parts. Yeah I'll explain that foolishness tomorrow--or try, anyway. :P


Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:06 am
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I threatened to tell you more about my dip pen adventures today but I spent way too long dabbing away at this latest page, so I've gotta put that off and do something quick instead... Ah, here's a spooky schematic animation of nuclear detonations from 1945 to 1998 (thanks to my brother for sharing this on Facebook :D); it starts off a bit slow but it's definitely looking a bit like global thermonuclear war by the time it gets into the '60's:



:o


Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:32 am
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Dah too late for full-on blogging. Gotta stop spending part of the day scrutinizing the methods of painstakingly photo-realistic comic artists who averaged (not making this up!) three months PER PAGE. :o But they are ink wash and they look so nice; I will go into this more when time allows 'cause it's an interesting story, there is some amazing sci-fi comic art that came out of it, and I'm also going to be adopting at least one of the main tools used.

But for this evening I'll settle for relating that in the shower yesterday I came up with details for some of the meaty scenes we'll be having here in A*'s next episode (episode 16, I mean, which isn't far off now). It ended up being a pretty long shower and I was probably close to chortling to myself at some points just thinking of the fun we'll have; all well and good although this was in the members shower at the gym and I suppose I probably got some weird looks but HEY writing isn't supposed to be easy.

Anyway I don't want to spoil anything but I will say this: space gangsters. Oh yeah. A* episode 16, don't miss it!

And because loads of text is boring here's a combo photo of two stages of penciling the main figure in today's page--the sad part is getting from one to the other probably took like an hour or something, gar:

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Hm I made a few more changes after that (to the way the shirt draped over the slacks, for instance), but I had already taken what I thought were the final stage photos like three times over the past few hours so I had to stop shooting SOMEtime.


Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:44 am
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Hope you've enjoyed the A* makeover week! =P It's possible I enjoy my costume changes a bit too much... But heck with it, they're my characters, I'll play dress-up with 'em if I wanna.

There's more than just a change of clothes in that box from Mother, though. Just what else will be revealed...next week! And we'll come very close to wrapping up this episode next week, even. And then it will be off to new worlds...of adventure!


Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:04 am
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