Friday, December 9, 2016


This was inspired by "Mansion Man," by The Willow & The Builder, a song I especially love on snowy days, though these are unfortunately far scarcer in Tokyo than in the country. I wanted to do some more pushed paintings, rather than just sketches, so I started this when we got a little snow this past Thanksgiving, while listening to the Adrian Simon catalogue.

I wanted the piece to be one of the more "heavy" illustration entries for my reviews at Tokyo Comic Con, so I had developed it a little further from the versions I posted on Twitter and Instagram. This is how the image looked going into Tokyo Comic Con for reviews, while the version at the very top is where I've taken it after the feedback.

This is the version I posted on Twitter. The feedback I got on the TCC version was that it was a little too blatantly digital-feeling, so I decided to clean it up a little more for today's post, particularly the bg, just about redrawing it entirely. I overlayed super faint versions of the original bg, though, as per their advice to incorporate more texture.

Clean-ups involved neatening the lines, but also clipping a color layer on them, too. The pure representation of the colors is masked by the overall blue layer coating everything, but the colors still make a great difference. The above is what it looks like without the chilly blue color-style layer active.

And this is what the final lines look like plain. Hopefully the feedback led to a stronger piece. I do have a WIP version with flat colors underneath everything, but it's getting unwieldy and I need to move on.

Bonus snow edition. I noticed when you take out all of Nyao's lines, the remaining effects make it look like she's a snowmeow. So there's that.

Not normal,


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I'm sick of seeing people write "it's" because 999999 times out of that-plus-one they're using it incorrectly.

It's simple. Even a Magic-playing moron like you should be able to understand.

IT + IS fused together make IT'S.
The apostrophe--the "sky comma"...ugh, the "floaty period-with-a-tail"--tells you words "fused" here.

ITS means possessive.
Just, whatever you'd normally do whenever you see the letters I, T, and S together, do the opposite.

Educate yourselve's.

Not normal,


Monday, December 5, 2016


I used to do a "shake" after SD Comic-Con, to use our old Herald terminology, where I sort of analyze what we learned from the event--so here are some things I got out of Tokyo Comic Con that I hope to keep at the forefront into the new year. I should note, while the event was much, much, much, much, much smaller than SD, it was even smaller than I was realistically hoping for, so there weren't a lot of review or meeting opportunities at all. I also don't get how some people would refuse to review...there was nothing going on a good part of each day. I've been on the other side of the table multiple times, I know there are thumb-twiddling, not-accomplishing-anything moments at every event, and people were not being hounded for reviews here as they might be in SD. If I am ever in the position to help anyone, carve it in stone: I will help whoever I can, whenever I can, if approached when I'm available. What cruelty otherwise.

Anyway, first thing off the bat, it's been a while since I've "showed," and I had an absolutely gross, roller-coaster feeling in my stomach all event--I could barely sleep (just laying in bed with my eyes closed, a phenomenon I absolutely hate, hence I tend to go to bed only when I'm about to collapse...I hate being in bed and not being asleep, but trying to go to sleep), so I just need to power through that..I'm not a social person, so it could be a "crowd" of one person, I still dread it. San Diego's easier because the days are longer and it a 5-day event, so you have plenty of time to numb your nerves. So, to try to deal with the nerved, I drew the little Zero sketch above the night before the event because I couldn't sleep or focus on more productive work, like prepping my files for print.

During reviews, I tend to focus almost entirely on note-taking, but I feel I should have asked more questions and generally been more active. The first reason I tend not to try to ask too many questions is above all, I feel awful taking up people's (anybody's) time, and asking questions always feels like a blatant "spend moar time on ME!!!" demand--this includes anything from an art review to asking the dude at 7-11 to microwave my bread. But I suppose if they're deciding to take time to review me, then I should take some liberty of ownership over the time they're granting me.

The second reason I hesitate to ask questions is that I don't want to give any whiff of excuse-making, and I feel like pros are quick to sense that from reviewees, and this is something I myself see in less experienced artists. Almost immediately with rookies, there're qualifiers and explanations and all this fluff, rather than letting the art speak for itself. I frankly hate that, so I don't want to give any impression that I'm trying to lead their interpretation of a piece by asking something after they've given their commentary. It's just like in Magic--never make excuses; take ownership of your decisions and just accept their results, and learn from that, not monologues on manascrew. So even if I feel I have grounds for a question or disagreement, I always second guess myself because I feel it'll come off as I'm making an excuse or trying to influence them in some way. I know this is absurd because I am capable of stepping back and reading a situation as a third party, and because when I would venture a question, we'd subsequently have a productive discussion, but I still can't shut off that "how dare you speak" voice in my head.

That said, I do feel this was the first time I've felt like I was in a conversation with a pro, though, not just a pure student. I get so nervous, though, I totally blanked on Splinter and Coverage Draft, comics I've worked on for if I was just improvising the story on the was the same way at school--I could know a subject front to back, but if having to deal with a human (not a paper) it was a coin flip if I could pull it together to present myself as informed and as prepared as I was or if I was going to come off indecipherable from some rando off the street riffing on a whim.

The other big takeaway was, as I had feared, I don't have enough variety in composition. All my stuff, as I was assembling it--even pre-assembly, as I was shorlisting files--tons and tons of bust shots; I ended up putting stuff in just because it had more body present. So top priority, I need to pull the camera back, more than just waist-up shots. People liked my comics, though, since those of course have more mobile vantage points. The other thing was one reviewer said I ought to put more story into the images, another suspicion I had during assembly. I've been trying to put more narrative into backgrounds, but the advisory seems to be to hit it head-on with multiple characters in one piece, for more apparent intrinsic storytelling. Appropriately, the last drawing I did before Tokyo Comic Con was that Zero bust sketch above, so to counter that, the first drawing afterward a sketch on the train of Fred and Vicky in front of a news kiosk, trying to put together a quick exploration of what I learned.

The last noteworthy thing I can glean from the event was that I need to pick a lane. This was floating in the back of my head, but hearing it out loud solidified it. I don't know what my "thing" I painting or doing lines?...I love lines, I want to be a killer with linework...I feel pressured into painting and even coloring. But the unanimous winner was our linework stuff. In fact, our little monochromatic Zero was the breakout piece. I included him almost at the very last minute, but ended up putting him on the cover of the packet when assembling leavers in the hotel on TCC eve. I had intended to paint him, but secretly really loved the monochromatic treatment. I included him mainly just because it was as near to a full-body image as I had. But this was the one everybody responded best to, which was quite gratifying, though the Admiral was our best painting piece). Zero means more to me than anything else I could possibly do, so it was a pleasant, if quiet, victory. What were we talking about again? Oh right, pick a lane.

So the vibe my packet gave off was schizophrenic. I have to pick an aspect to focus on and just go all in on that, it seems--one reviewer said that piece to piece, they look like they could have been done by different people. The problem is I don't exactly-laser-focused know what I want, and I've always discarded notions of "style," since that was always like n00b code for "I suck, but these pieces all suck in a similar way, so that makes them good," it's like a type of intolerable excuse-making discussed earlier. I had always learned that style comes over time, eventually, naturally, and unintentionally...only amateurs try to force it. I don't know what my "style" is, and I dread even thinking about thinking about it. I draw as I draw. I don't know. It was unthinkable to try for style. But now, I have to? That's like learning that mothers drinking vodka actually helps their babies grow strong.

What is the goal? I just want to make people happy with art. I'll dance like a monkey to do that, whatever jig it takes, disregarding any personal happiness in the process, as I have for the past decade. My personal wishes don't hold much weight in my mind. But I do know I like lines, and I want to be insane at that more than being an insane painter. Color has always been a lower priority to me that I've felt pressured into. I don't even like most color comics to be perfectly honest...especially in the west, colors too often destroy lines, or even just act as a crutch for poor linework. I love JP comics because it's pretty much all black and white, so you live and die on your lines. Obviously when they do color, it's only a few pages and covers and stuff, and it's gorgeous, and that's more the pace I'd like. So I guess that's the decision, huh? Focus on linework. The rub is that nobody cares about lines. Everyone wants colors...

So as we look to next year, I have to pull the camera out, do more implicit storytelling in images, and tighten up (spam?) a style. Art, like Magic, isn't fun. It's a technical endeavor in the pursuit of perfection. So we need to be more perfect. Oh, also, while I grapple with these art issues, my country is destroying itself and reverting into an abominable amateur-hour version of itself from half a century ago, so good beats.

Not normal,


Saturday, December 3, 2016


10 years to the day since his first airplane ride.

Wonder where he was going. Wonder what he was thinking.

Wonder what he's doing.

Wonder if he's ok.

Wonder wonder wonder.


Friday, December 2, 2016


I should be off to Tokyo Comic-Con if everything's going correctly. I don't have any updated business cards, so I made a couple by hand, but probably won't even need them.

I'm writing this on Thursday. Feel like throwing up. Quite nervous. Hate talking to people and hyping myself, and now I have to do nothing but that...hate having to pick which pieces to define myself by, too, for the portfolio tell me what you want and I'll do gosh...hate this part of doing art.

Not normal,


Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Grin and bear it, it's Sick Little Suicide #26, "Home," in which we bask in the glory of the United States of America.

It is disgusting what that orange clown represents and enables. And it is disgusting that people eagerly contributed to the ideologies that perpetuated him, such as this outrageous Crosschecking scam, created by a Yalie of all people (though he's not the only defender of evil), that trashes minorities' voting rights.

Anyway, this started as fan art to my favorite poem, Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask," which I find myself thinking on every now and then, but especially recently. I imagine President Obama--the President of the United States of America--has to do this. Even this great man. I don't like using the word "man" because it's such a loaded word, but he definitely qualifies. And now he has to entertain that orange idiot to fool him into not ignoring the one adult in the room. He has to wear a mask for a treasonous villain. That's where we are in 2016. But I'm confident he'll ultimately be victorious. He is good. And evil can't win.

From all the anger and disgust I got from reading those articles and stuff, I just wanted to draw a defiant black person in a smiling bandana covering her mouth, but then it turned into Alexis Blight, which made it more personal and painful for me. She's Nigerian, but from New Jersey, so she'd likely face this kind of stupidity at some point. She went to Harvard and Yale, and still has to deal with this garbage.

Anyway, it was fun just getting in there with the colors on the jacket and hair. I used to test colors quite extensively before, but I'm feeling more comfortable coloring from the gut. She's wearing reds and stuff because she's a Cantab at heart of course, but her mask is purposely a callback to the blackface caricatures of my country's illustrious past.

Not normal,


Monday, November 28, 2016


Preparing for Coverage Draft with a sketch of Vicky. This is digitally adjusted to more closely reflect her actual skin tone, since the "final" felt a little too misleadingly light, despite the originating parameters.

I wanted to draw Vicky using only black and white and red all over, leaving the skin completely colorless, but what started as a nose mask with my darkest red colored pencil ended up extending over everything.

I went to move my paper to get a better angle while coloring her ID when I accidentally lifted the paper up to my open Copic, hence the stray mark on the nose. I contemplated leaving it vs. digitally removing it, but decided to try to muscle through, first with a failed white pen coverup, and then a colored pencil mask.

Originally it was just going to be strictly limited to BWR to reflect the newspaper/journalism theme, but I can never just keep it simple...I'm trying, but I always want to add more and end up overdoing it.

Anyway, I think we've got her down design-wise, at least...the photo in the background is from when I went to go see Motion City, by the way, outside Toho Cinemas, one of the very first places we visited during my Yale summer in JP.

Not normal,


Friday, November 25, 2016


I made a GIF, like those emoriffic opening/ending themes from my childhood animus. The song I was thinking of for this was Jimmy Eat World's "Drugs or Me (Styrofoam Remix)," which is just emo enough to feel accurate to the mood, and just techno-y enough to feel animutastic.

It's supposed to look like an ending theme credits screen at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it's mainly nonsense on the cusp of meaning, to feel like those wacked-out dictionary vomits you see sometimes in JP stuff. They think English looks cool the same way we think kanji look cool, so like us, they just plop rando text wherever.

I was transferring over some art to prep for Tokyo Comic-Con, when I came across this Shinjuku study sketch (which I just found out is near where I always used to play FNM!) and thought it'd look cool animating the lights. Then I came across this figure and thought it would be neat if I foregrounded her and made it all look like an ending theme.

This took 34 frames with the PS animation tool, each of which I made by arranging the elements and CTRL+Shift+ALT+E merging all visible layers per "cel." I started by wiggling the background hand-camera style, as I wanted that to be the main focus, and used that as my animation base. I then recreated each of those frames with the added "dressing" elements on top--traffic lights, credits, and figure work--and merged those into my then invisibled base frames. A little tedious and more ball-jugglingly than technically difficult, but still a satisfying experience.

This left layer panel above shows some of what's in the right panel's "cels" group, including notes on when to cue certain effects as I went on my second pass incorporating the dress elements. Again, it was a lot of juggling to keep track of, but nothing actually difficult. Not pictured, but I also used the color-coding option on the layers to tell me when to change the lights. All these little notes were essential to keeping it mainly a matter of tedium than difficulty. Limited animation like this makes me feel excited to try something a little more complex, which just means more juggling, but once you have the elements you want to use and knowledge of the effect you want to create, it's just lots of clicking and arrow-button pushing.

Not normal,


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Feeling kinda glum, I just started scribbling around and ended up painting a cave-like place, eventually arriving at a sort of screenshot-style piece from like when you're talking to someone in an RPG.

I named her Trixi because Yuki mighta been a little too weeabooish (Yuki's a cool name that also means snow, in reference to her 'do, but it lost points for potential misreads with "yucky").

I figure Trixi's more of a sweet joker type anyway, hitting you with sarcasm and witticisms rather than actual advice and clues (though she sneaks them in there)--the red text sprinkling was a throwback to games like Zelda that did the same for ADD players.

I didn't realize the lines were from an old Inktober piece, but this process's exactly what I'm hoping to do more of down the line, especially with this year's more complex pieces.

That is, this piece was exciting because for a while now, I've been thinking about trying this technique of remixing pre-made inked lines into full-color, polished pieces.

I knew from the get-go I wanted to try coloring the background via gradient maps, another KNKL technique.

Background paintings with traditional cel-shaded figures is a nice combo, and the painting itself is really relaxing cuz it feels like you can't screw up too much, as opposed to more obvious figurework mistakes.

Bonus Twitter version.

Not normal,


Monday, November 21, 2016


Sorta distracting myself from the main pieces we need to get done, and then these side sketches invariably keep kinda taking over, so one last piece inspired by Adrian Simon--specifically "You and I," off of The Ivy League, The Ivy League's second and apparently final album, though the first one I listened to. It seems they broke up right around when I first got into them...I want to say I remember seeing an ad that they were playing with The Rollover Motive one night, who I was far more familiar with at that point, but I didn't/don't know New Haven terribly well and didn't want to risk running around the city at night looking for the venue, so I missed my chance to see them live. Unrelated, remember that night some guy started firing a gun near my dorm? Good ol' yaleprombles.

Anyway, I love "You and I" for three reasons (at least). First, it's a great song, obviously--the soft, unassuming guitar intro, the soothing yet aggressive drive to the end, and the gutting repetition of the ending itself. I especially love the sweeping, super long "I" syllables used throughout, as in, "And I, I don't want to live like this for the rest of my wasted and I love you and I." It's a perfect song for night drawing (probably night driving, too), when the world feels asleep and you have all the time in the world to sit and think. This song is like a nightlight that casts slightly spooky shadows that are nevertheless harmless. It makes me think of those 4am strolls in my old rural Japanese "Miyazaki movie" town. No danger, but you feel like there should be--or that you've been conditioned to think so, like all the clues tell you to move more quickly, but the reality is it's just a calm, pitch-black night. And the stars are insane and infinite above.

Second, this track feels like two songs in one: the split occurs appropriately at a palindromic timestamp, 3:13's grand pause, and then the song switches from a sort of outward conversation or narrative to an inward confession or calibration. And that second part's opening line always stuck with me, "I'm a wolf in a woolen robe..." The repetition is overwhelming sometimes. Again, listen at night--dark, dark night--it can gobble you right up. It starts, "Well, I'm a wolf..." but that nonchalant take ends up outnumbered and at the more fatalistic conclusion, "And I'm a wolf..." This song's somewhat harsh lyrics--the subsequent line is "My heart is black, my blood runs cold"--contrasted with such a gentle delivery are just wonderful. It's like how Justin Pierre delivers such bitter news via such chipper tunes. The attitudinal contrast, embodied in the song's two-in-one split some kind of creature A wearing another creature B's attire (forgive me, a suitable idiomatic expression escapes me)...makes this an unforgettable track.

The third reason I love this song is that it feels like it sorta initiates the finale to the album (disregarding how gorgeously the previous track, "Dancing Shoes," ends on such an abrupt quietude, perfectly setting up the track of the hour; that song feels just distinctly separate enough for the vast majority of its run to feel like it still primarily occupies the body of the album, not the finale). I love long, "epic" songs (not nec. the album's final track, though epics do tend to make the best killing blows).

For reference, some of my all-time favorite epics are like Weezer's "Only in Dreams" (which holds a special place for me as the ending track to the "Blue Album," whose opening track, "My Name is Jonas," was in the little JE welcome DVD they sent us to get us hyped for move-in day) and "The Angel and the One" (from the first album I ever bought in Japan!), Jimmy Eat World's "23" (from the first album I got in SD, winning it off of 91X a few days after moving to SoCal), and of course Motion City's "Hold Me Down" (my first MCS album!).

Anyway, I've always said AS can end albums like nobody's business, and the self titled album feels like it boasts a three-part finale starting with "You and I" as the intro, seamlessly powering into "Silhouettes and Heartache" (man, oh, man, best track? Tough call.), and concluding with the breathtaking epic, "I'll Wait for You." Obviously we're counting "BUAD" separately as strictly a bonus (though just as excellent) track. These songs are so powerful individually, but run so beautifully together, you almost have to take all three as one, despite the burning desire to hit repeat on each (plus "BUAD" of course).

So I love this song for how excellently it ends one of my all-time favorite albums, how carefully it packs in a dark richness, and how beautiful it is unto itself. Today's sketch only clumsily captures some of what I feel when I listen to it. I wish I could do it more justice, but hopefully the gist is there. Oh, hey, it's raining tonight, too. Love the rain. Rain, music, night, and art...これは人生。

Not normal,


Friday, November 18, 2016


Ok, here's the real piece we were working on to get us back into art mode. It's like a mock-up hype poster for Homie Airport, based on my old Cancun Kid character design, though oddly enough, I finished this piece first, then that sketch, then the Pocky piece. The story behind this piece is oddly complex. I couldn't draw anything anymore--that stupid election just made everything seem meaningless and futile, especially art.

This was the first time that I've had zero will to draw in a long, long, long time. But I knew I had to force myself to snap out of it because of the upcoming hullabaloo. Eventually I inched my way to sketching, but everything that came out was utter gutter garbo balarbo. So I thought I'd baby-steps it by being super specific, giving myself a clear template to follow, namely tracing and refining my old Homie Airport sketch.

Now here's the twist, drawing this was punishment. I usually use things I like to sort of punish myself. Like, back when I was playing Magic regularly, if I ever screwed up heinously, I'd force myself to buy single cards, something I seldom do cuz I don't like Constructed. If I'd screw up again, I'd buy more expensive or voluminous cards, sorta like the classic dad punishing his cig-sampling kid by making him smoke a whole pack--just heap on the "good" thing in a sarcastic "take that" move.

So in this case, I knew I had some other important pieces to get to, but as punishment for not being able to control my emotions, for caving into misery and not channeling it into productivity, I dove into this piece. It was therapeutic, of course, listening to Adrian Simon's catalog and drawing fan art, so it was definitely a positive experience. But obviously, it was time away from what should have been my main focus. I still have a lingering feeling of uselessness as always, so I have a hunch it doesn't make a difference either way.

Anyway, I concepted Homie as a cocky, but laid-back, fun-and-music-loving hippy-dandy admiral guy. He's the boss/only DJ of a deserted island radio station, where he plays tunes (the AdSim catalog) for all to rock to. He can manipulate space and time through music, warping the very island to his taste, but unfortunately he can't ever leave cuz the signal only extends to the coastline. Rather than bleep for help all day, he just plays his jams and enjoys absolute command over this, his island HQ (and de facto paradisiacal prison).

What he doesn't know is he crash landed here and is going (or has gone) insane alone on the island. Even the real-world audience doesn't know this, unless they read and interpret the liner notes carefully. So while they only see a suave admirally guy playing those slamming grooves for all the chipper islander chaps, away from his musical magic he's actually something like an unkempt hobo raving in the night from atop a broken-down radio tower on a lonely, lush island. Fortunately he plays music nigh constantly, rarely breaking the illusion.

Working on this piece was just the thing I needed. I don't feel back at 100%, but I do feel there's enough juice in the tank to get us going again. Excited for the new album. Don't actually know if it's going to be released as Homie Airport, but fingers crossed there's more rock afoot.

Not normal,


Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Ok, moping does nothing. To get me out of the crippling ugliness, I thought I'd trick myself into getting back into the swing of things by starting easy, basically just tracing my old Homie Airport sketch, adding sparse colors, and capping it off with limited design elements like you might see in JP fashion ads.

I deliberately told myself to keep it simple, just Steve Ahn's storyboarding brush, flat colors, and a super loose coloring style, like one of those hand-printed deals. The idea was to make it look like a magazine ad or something hyping the new album. The tagline is a little pun: reading the Japanese characters for "music" in Japanese is literally the characters for "sound fun," so it's like a sarcastic, "Music is fun, huh?" sentiment, playing off of the "fun/しい" character in "music/音," though again, zero reason for him to be so serious, wherein lies the humor.

Anyway, I got carried away with the main piece I was working on, which was actually meant to be simpler than this one, but their complexity swapped as I switched from today's simple piece to that complex one (the funk was so bad, I couldn't even finish today's trace job, so I distracted myself by jumping to the other piece). That complex piece ended up getting inspired by this piece (but I finished the complex one first, though I'll post it last for this week). As for this piece, it's just Homie Airport looking tuff/cool.

I love drawing characters with orange hair. The quest continues to do it well.

Not normal,


Monday, November 14, 2016


Here's a little Pocky Day design I wanted to do to trick myself into doing art again, like everything's back to normal. I'm actually writing this Friday 11/18, well, technically Saturday now (JP time). The stupid election has plunged me into such a funk, as I haven't felt in a long, long time.

Just the thought of doing art felt like...I dunno, disrespectful? Certainly useless. Meaningless, etc. Obviously, I had wanted to get this done in time for 11/11, but...I physically couldn't draw. I tried to latch onto something easy, a stupid Pocky Day piece, but even pooping out sketches to get to the piece was laborious, mocking me with how impossible drawing has become.

Fortunately, this Friday's piece snapped me back into it. I just finished that piece, and then did a quick follow up, which I'll post Wednesday, and since I was on a roll, I finally snapped off this Pocky thing. So I hope we're back in working order now.

Anyway, all I know is we cannot let this idiocy ever feel normal. Normalization is almost treason. That orange fraud hopes we all forget. But this is not normal.

So from now until the next presidential election, I will alter my signature to remind myself constantly that this is not normal, no matter how many months and years into this garbage we get. Don't forget the sorrow and anger and betrayal and disgust and dishonor this orange fraud has gifted the country.

I hope I can look back at this post and remember exactly what it was like. To that end, here are the things that I can't say I necessarily take comfort in, but are like having something with which to take comfort in:
Dave Chapelle's 11/12/16 SNL monologue
Stephen Colbert's coverage night sign-off
Seth Meyers's election day remarks
Conan's historical perspective
Stephen Colbert's conviction
Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World

Not normal,