Not necessarily in that order…
So, I’ve neglected this blog for a while. I have a good excuse. Actually, I have three.
My amazing son, Phoenix is eight months old now but he’s big enough to pass for a one year old. Being a father is the hardest and the best thing in my life. I know that’s a cliché but I lack the words to describe it better to those who are not parents. And for those who are parents, you know the cliché only scratches the surface. The fact that I’ve been able to accomplish anything in the last eight months is a testament to the kindness of my wife. She has allowed me to carve out a little personal time to work on the next reason I have not been posting.
2. Fables for Japan
“Fables for Japan” is a charity anthology to raise money for the victims of the March 11th earthquake in Japan. I originally volunteered to contribute a story for the book but I ultimately found myself heading up the whole thing. The scope of the project has ballooned far beyond my expectations. “Fables for Japan” is now a collection of three e-books with stories and artwork from such names as David Lloyd, Mark Badger, Nancy Collins, Stuart Moore, Frederico Dallocchio, Phillip Hester, Teddy Kristiansen, Tom Peyer, Ryan Kelly, Mark Wheatley, and Jeffery Vaughn, just to name just a few. In all, there are close to a hundred contributors from all around the world involved in one capacity or another. Managing all this has been a massive undertaking but I am very proud of it. In fact, I may be more proud of this project than anything else I’ve done in my career.
We completed Book 1 in early September and you can purchased it on the www.fables4japan.com website. It is 124 pages long and contains stories and artwork from 28 different contributors. It sells for $4.95 and it is well worth the price. As an added bonus, 100% of the project’s sales go to the Red Cross in care of Japan. So, if you haven’t bought a copy, please do. You won’t be sorry.
Book 2 is wrapping up now and it’s looking amazing. I think it will blow people away. We are releasing Book 2 around the end of November. You can follow the progress of the project and keep up with the release dates on our website: www.fables4japan.com, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter.
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
My last (but certainly not least) reason for neglecting this blog is that the game I’ve been working on for the last five years, Star Wars The Old Republic, is finally nearing launch. They’ve announced our ship date as December 20th, 2011 and we have been working hard to finish up the content so the programmers and designers can finish their tasks. Last week we locked down the artwork. From here on out we will be fixing bugs and polishing to make the game looks as beautiful as possible for launch. The work being done on this game is groundbreaking on many different levels and I’m lucky to be apart of it. We are still under NDA so I can’t say much else but I will be posting more as we get closer to release.
Those are my excuses.
These three tasks have kept me so busy I hardly have time to sleep let alone focus on my own work these days. I will try to post more often but until “Fables for Japan” is wrapped up, sometime early next year, the updates might be sporadic at best.
With that said, I thought I’d show you a little of my story from Book 1 of “Fables for Japan.” What follows is a step by step look at how the pages came together and changed to meet the needs of the story. To read the complete version of “Boy in the Water”, and many others great stories, please buy a copy of Book 1 here: www.fables4japan.com
Step by Step: Boy in the Water
I decide to use a two page sequence from my story, “Boy in the Water”, to show how the storytelling process began and eventually evolved into the final product.
Below are the breakdowns for pages 3 and 4. These were roughly sketched out on the computer. Here, I was only concerned with general placement and how the text would fit into the art.
In the next step, I fleshed out the art and tweaked the composition some. I concerned myself with shadow, flow, and development of the characters. This was still done on the computer. Working digitally at this stage is great because you can easily move elements around on the page, scale them, flip them, or rotate them however you like until you’re happy.
I liked how page 3 was coming out but page 4 was problematic. Too much was going on – it felt crowded. Also the transition between page 3 and 4 was awkward. The boy is attacked by a smoke monster then, on the next page, a dragon is sitting there…visually it didn’t make sense. Also the transition from page 4 to 5 (not shown here) was also awkward for similar reasons. I was trying to keep the page count to 5 pages both for space in the book and scheduling reasons. So, despite these problems I decided to press on – relying on the text to fill in these gaps.
Next step was the penciling. At this point I transitioned from the computer to more traditional materials. I focused here on defining the characters more and polishing the sketches above.
The Inks were next. I wanted to mimic a Japanese brush style of art here, where there is more emphasis on shadow to define the image rather than line work. The brush strokes are kept simple and loose to define forms rather that small details. I don’t feel I was entirely successful in mimicking this style – it’s not as simple as it looks – but I’m happy with the results.
You can also see that I played around with the composition a little on page 4 – trying to make the scenes where the 9 dragons burst through the water more dramatic. I don’t know if it was successful but it relates to my general unhappiness with this page.
Next I added color. This was done in watercolor and kept fairly simple – again, trying to mimic a Japanese watercolor painting style. In the story, the boy is in a dream state – a grey wasteland. So the colors of the boy are kept very washed out and gray while the characters he encounters and the items they give him provide the color for the story. It’s all so symbolic.
The last step was to add in the text and set the pages on a parchment style background. Here I realized that I had made a critical mistake. The size of the font I used for the breakdowns was too small and not easily to read in the final digital format the book is published in. I needed to make the text larger. This made it impossible to fit everything on the already crowded page 4. It was the final straw. I broke down and decided to add two more pages – one to help the transition between page 3 and 4, and a second t help the transition between page 4 and 5. This also allowed me to spread out the sequence on page 4 so that it didn’t feel so cramped. It also let me add a little action to an otherwise subdued story.
And that how page 3 and 4 became 3, 4, 5, and 6:
That’s it. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at how I stumbled my way to the final product. And please do check out “Fables for Japan” it a great project, full of great stories and art, all for a great cause.