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Things I Learned About Making Comics While Making Comics

I was originally writing this post to talk about how I'm going to get The Nightmare Tree sent off to the printer this weekend but made that a Tweet instead. Last night, I finished the art for those pages and I'm scanning them as we speak. So let's talk about what I learned from working on this book as I go into work on The Golden Apple.

First, character design and development. I talked about this on stream last night, and I mean every word of what I said. Part of my pre-production HAS to include character design, and that character design has to include hair-style, clothing, facial expressions, silhouette, personality, and relationships. I'm not going to amount to a very good artist, especially working in comics, if I don't include these things. TNT got me with my indecisiveness on what my characters were wearing, their hair, and what color everything was. So when you see this book, and you wonder why my design choices were made the way they were, you can look back on this post and say, "Oh, because Celestian didn't really have a look in mind for any of these characters." I sure didn't.

Second, colors. Y'all, everyone in this book is mixed up on what season it is, and that's my fault. I just put people in things that I thought were cute but gave no real brainpower on the season, the setting, nor the story. The story was being written in my head in real-time as I drew pages, but I had no notes on anything. I was in such a race to get through this book on time that I didn't stop to think about what was actually happening. This ties with my first point, but coloring isn't so simple.

I am some kind of colorblind. Not kidding. Certain colors are difficult to distinguish for me, unless they're bright or really saturated. That, and I tend to overdo my colors because they don't render the way I want them to when I put them down. That's something I'll have to remember for TGA so that I'm not spending the next day painting over something that was already done. Not only do I have to trust my colors to do what I asked for, but I also have to make sure I mix them right and trust my original vision.

This includes what I did for shadows. I've learned that laying down blue ink for my shadows is an amazing part of the process and works every time I do it, to establish depth and local light. But what I forgot (and probably what I always forget) is ground and cast shadow. That will need to be put down, too, before I start with any colors so I don't have to go back afterward to add them in for the last 30 minutes of work. Not everything can be fixed in post!

Next, development schedule. This is a tough one because of my other things going on, but since I've already carved out my schedule for streaming, I'll have to do the same for project development. What really got me good was not having a plan and thinking I was going to crank out a book in two weeks. I should really know better than that by now. I'm putting together a calendar now for TGA, and every subsequent book I work on, that accounts for my actual productivity as it meets my publishing deadline and keeps me motivated to meet it. In development, it'll also have to account for how I do my work so that each week has its own pattern of things I need to do to get my work done better, and faster, at higher quality each time.

I have always been resistant to IOF being "work". But if I'm going to be a professional artist and comics maker, it has to be. But that doesn't have to be a bad thing. It means that I take what I do seriously, and I want my work to stand on its own, and to speak for itself about what I do. If I can't hold myself to a professional standard, then I can't be called a professional. And I am a professional.

The Golden Apple will be much better than The Nightmare Tree now that these lessons have been learned, and the next schedule I'll publish will be an actual production schedule. This year, I'm going to learn all about scheduling my work and keeping myself motivated. If it takes me about a month to finish a book all the way through, then I should never end up late, as long as I account for the right things in the production part.

And with that, my scans are done :)

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