Tuesday, February 8, 2011


     I've been a bit busy lately with a number of projects: hence the lack of posts. In a few days I want to do an article on redline vs blueline vs ordinary pencil and how they impact inking. I just don't have time at the moment.

     Which is not to say that I haven't been sketching. I'm still trying to work on anatomy. It's an ongoing battle...but I keep returning to photo references. They really are the best way to go to get a handle on muscle interaction and foreshortening. 

     The portrait I've posted was done with a photo reference, specifically from the book People and Poses. She's a roleplaying character, but I'm pretty happy with how she turned out. The other drawing was done without a photo reference and there are some pretty glaring errors. It's funny how much a photo improves even a simple sketch.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sketch Cards!

     Just finished a few more sketch cards which are for sale here. More in the Steampunk Alice in Wonderland theme, as well as one of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and a couple of fantasy themed ones.

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's coming!

     The first Real Life Fiction comic book is almost here! I just got my final version today and it looks good. All I need to do is figure out how to get it listed on ComixPress.

     I'm thinking of having a contest of some kind, with the prize being the first RLF book ever printed, with custom art drawn on the back. Hmmm...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Comics

     I've been doing a bit of sorting and have decided to move Oddewulf, my 12th century werewolf comic, over to the main RLF site. It used to be on Smackjeeves, but that version long ago fell into disrepair. 

     As an added bonus, I've also but my new side comic, Jenny Normal up on the RLF site, as well. It's a fun little superhero parody. I have four pages done so far...eventually I intend to publish it as a mini-comic.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pernicious Penography

     Much has been made about what pens you should use to ink a comic. Finding just the right pen is an epic quest, albeit one that rewards you with an empty wallet rather than experience points. I suspect that this Perfect Pen is different for each person. Why, I myself prefer the pen to be wrought from yew with core of finest phoenix feather….all the better to roast that little Potter twerp with! Mwahahahhaw!

     Er, where was I? Oh yes. Pens. Even though the appeal of one pen over another largely comes down to personal preference, I find that different types yield wildly different results.

      To the left are three hastily done drawings. I actually did not want to do the best I could with these because you can often times tell the qualities of a pen by what mistakes you make rather than how well it preforms.

      The top portrait I did with Micron pens. Microns are disposable technical pens with small, felt tips. They come in different nib sizes and usually go for 2-3 dollars each. Other companies make similar pens- Zig and Faber Castell, for starters, although I have yet to find a Faber Castell that can get as fine a line as a Zig or Micron.

     I have used these pens for years. In fact, I drew most of my first webcomic with them. Their ink is archival quality, which means that it will not fade easily and will not yellow or burn the page over time. You can also get a pretty steady line with them. The downside is that they are rather unpredictable. The felt nibs tend to split or break easily, so suddenly the pen that once gave you a nice hair-tin line is acting like one several nib sizes larger. You can see this in my drawing. The nib I used was supposed to be small, but the lines it gives are awkward and thick. Also, I got really tired of throwing away pens whenever they dried up. It seemed like a damn waste and having to shell out the money to replace them all the time really adds up.

     Rapidographs are gods among pens. And they are price accordingly, retailing for around $30. Each.

     Rapidographs are what architects and engineers used to use to make technical drawings back before they switched to computer. These pens are refillable and give you the best line you could ask for. Seriously, I have one that can draw a line .13 millimeters wide. They are frickin’ sweet. I have a mixed opinion on how they do with shading. The one I used for the middle sketch is clearly not ideal for crosshatching, but you’ll get a better result with some of those super-fine tipped rapidographs such as the .13 mm.

     The downside, besides the cost, is that they do clog easily. Not surprising giving how small the tip is. You have to clean them fairly regularly. In the meantime, though, they do wonderfully. As a side note, be sure you use India ink meant only for a rapidiograph as regular India ink will clog it more readily.

Dip Pens
     Talk about old fashioned, right? But a lot of artists still use them, especially for special effects. They’re cost effective and they last for ages. Plus most India ink these days is lightfast and nonacidic. Dip pens are the best if you want to play around with line variation, as you can see in the third sketch, and the lines they leave are usually very crisp and bold. Also, the smallest nibs are excellent for shading.

     The downside of dip pens is two fold. First, it’s easy to blotch your page. I’ve had more trouble in this area using the larger nibs than I have the small ones, but the danger of it is ever present. Fortunately, this can usually be fixed with either white India ink or a healthy dose of Photoshop. The second problem with dip pens is more troubling. See, they can only really do certain strokes- vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines are fine, but only so long as you are pulling the pen towards you. If you want to push the pen away from you, it tends to skip and move all over the place. This becomes a big problem if you’re drawing anything circular.

     I’m sure the limitations of many of these pens are easily overcome with sufficient skill, of course, but until that point these are things you will have to deal with. These days I find I prefer doing most of my work with a rapdograph. If I need a particularly bold line I might pick up a Micron and if I need shading or line variation, I’ll use a dip pen. Hey, no one said you have to pick just one, right? But the rapidograph is definitely my default.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

RLF Wallpapers

     I've done up a couple of wallpapers for the comic. And by a couple I mean literally two. You can find them here or by clicking on the images provided. More may come later, however. I was afraid that individual panels would not be large enough to turn into a wallpaper, especially considering the screen resolution of most modern monitors, but the advantage of working at a high dpi is that it gives you a lot of leeway for things like that. I'm just glad that I have a computer that can easily process extremely large psds.

     I took a poll on twitter as to what T shirt I should do next, Communist Manifest-Os or Freud Loops. The vast majority of responses so far are for the first option. The shirt, of course, will have to be red.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Promoting Your Webcomic

            Numerous articles have been written on this topic, some of which are quite good. However, most of them fail to adequately live up to my experiences. Let’s be honest here: The internet is a soul-sucking netherworld of ennui. When you offer up your art on a silver platter to faceless strangers, you can’t but help feeling that the resounding silence that is the usual reply reflects, somehow, on you personally.

            The problem is that you’re promotions compete directly with hundreds of others cartoonists that are in the exact same boat. Together, the collective yammering forms a white noise that’s easy for readers to ignore. Standing out against this backdrop is very difficult and is, itself, a balancing act. The flip side is that you don’t want to stand out too much. Ads that do generally annoy the hell out of potential readers. Remember yanking your headphones off as banner ads that blast your ears with an add for Viagra? Or those seizure-inducing flash ads of the early 2000’s? Yeah. Don’t be like them.

            The trick to good advertising is two-fold. First, advertise off the beaten path. Do not tread the same weary road as everyone else. Certainly you should use web resources available for webcomic promotion, but you should also reach beyond the sphere of webcomics to reach audiences in other niches that might fall within your target audience. For example, if you run a gaming comic you shouldn’t just advertise on webcomic collectives- try advertising on gaming sites and stores. You’ll be reaching your audience without going head to head with other webcomics. Plus, the people who usually visit collectives are already interested in comics or make them themselves, whereas other websites offer fresh blood.

            Second, know how to read your web analytics. I cannot emphasize this enough. Promoting your comic without monitoring the results is much akin to a monkey flinging poo- sometimes it sticks, but often not. Web analytics will tell you what works for you and what does not. This will likely be a little different for each comic, as it is largely dependant on the temperament of your audience. But you need to look at more than what sites refer you and how many people they refer. You need to also look at things such as the bounce rate that Google Analytics offers. The bounce rate gives you a rough estimation of how many of those new visitors are sticking around. Also have a look at the ad placement on referring sites. If your add is a tiny 100 px banner in a dusty corner and is still pulling in a lot of visitors, than you have nailed your target market. If you take out a ledger sized banner and you only get one or two visits, chances are you’re missing.

            I suggest trying out a micro-bid system before you invest in any significant advertising. Sites such as Project Wonderful  are excellent for this. They allow you to experiment with advertising on different sites for a couple of cents at a time. If you advertise on a broad range of sites you will get a better idea of just who your target audience is and what kind of sites you should advertise on in the future.

            Also join forums related to your comic. But whatever you do, do not simply join to pimp your comic. This is an extreme netiquette faux pas and will incur the wrath of the admin mallet. You need to become an active member of the community and participate in discussions. Do not post asking for reviews of your comic, and do not try to turn the discussion topic to that of your comic at every juncture. A simple link to your comic in your signature is advertising enough. And don’t bother posting in ‘self promotion’ forums. The only people who read those are the ones who go there to promote their stuff…like you.

            Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are surprisingly limited as marketing tools. Sure, they’re great if you can get something to go viral, but the chances of that are very slim. They are mostly useful for keeping already fans in touch with your work. Therefore, you already need to have some degree of popularity for them to be of any use. However, sites such as StumbleUpon can give you a small, steady stream of visitors.

            Fanart art and guest comics are a great way to promote your work, since the host comic usually links back to your site. But take care- be sure to make something heartfelt, with quality in mind. If you do some slap-dash sketch, no one will be inclined to look at your comic. In short, it should not just be a cheap marketing ploy.

            I do not claim to be some paragon of the webcomic world. My word is not law and my comic is no Penny Arcade. But these are things that have worked for me and might work for you. The long and short of it is that any promotion done without consideration for the viewer will fail, flat out. Concentrate on a few quality promotion campaigns at a time.