Friday, December 30, 2016


Wasn't sure what to post for the 2016 finale, so I decided to go with something that may be indicative of the art. I've always had mixed emotions about going overboard on fan art, but...2017 will be a year of putting myself outside of my comfort zone. So here is Wavebird from Loki IRL, by Pan-Pizza.

I ended up doing a series of 5 Pan-inspired pizzas. I mean pieces. It all started with wanting to draw one character in particular, who will be up Monday. I have a 100 yen pocket notebook I've been sketching in, and I should be clearing it by New Years' (tonight in Japan), so the Pan series was a nice little send-off for the bulk of the remaining pages, and after that I'll continue the march to focusing on digital...

Before going for the character I really wanted to draw, I decided to warm up with a simpler, more straightforward approach on Bianca, but soon enough I then wanted to try a more full-illustration approach as we moved on to Wavebird here, who is actually the fourth entry in the series.

I thought about working in some of my favorite video games, but settled on just doing a focal reference to Super Smash Bros. Melee, with only vaguely Majora's Mask and Windwaker-inspired blobs in the far background, in order not to detract with too busy of a background. The lower showcase has vaguely amiibo-like figures and a vaguely Pokemon poster, and the upper background is just riffing on a Gamestop photo since there don't seem to be any interiors of Game Splitters proper.

Here's what kicked off the "Kids Love It" series, Bianca, the heroine of Loki IRL. The background's negative space is supposed to suggest Loki. Clever right? Of course not. Obviously her more realistic trials and tribulations resonate with me...I wasn't laughed out of SD Comic-Con reviews or anything, but I didn't walk away victorious either, just sorta "k." Well, "Good stuff, keep it up!" What do you do with that?

Tokyo Comic Con was similar, though there was no dedicated review area, just casual talks if the artists had any time. The show was so tiny and only 1 or 2 tables saw any real swarming, with almost no rando review-seekers apart from me. I couldn't help but think it bewildering when any artists weren't willing to review. I've worked on the other side of the table as an assistant three times now here in Japan, and while I know how taxing a show can be...Tokyo Comic Con was not at that marathon, non-stop-people level.

Anyway, what were talking about? Oh right. More fan art in 2017. I'm happy we met our 2016 resolution for the most part (a couple pieces are still WIP) to get the site up to date, after the sparsely updated past couple years. So 2017's resolution is to continue staying current, do more fan art, focus more on digital, and most importantly(?) get at least three comics up, chiefly Coverage Draft, but also Splinter and Songs About Chie plus some SLSs. For now, the Kids Love It series will continue on for the next two posts.

Not normal,


Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Continuing our Christmas sketch card series from last time, now we have Zero, but dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge, expanding on the hat theme.

Since he's our main dude, I wanted to make his portrait a little more special so I gave him a full costume, but also a little wreath noose.

I chose Scrooge because Z's a bitter, bitter dude befitting a "bah humbug" vibe, though ultimately, it does irk a little that he's the only one in full costume and portrait.

I wasn't sure what costume would best complement Z's for Nyao, but I didn't want to draw her as Tiny Tim or a ghost or something so I just went with the only thematically-appropriate "hat" that I could think of: reindeer antlers, which felt apt because it's animal-themed.

Hmm, maybe Z could have just gone with a top hat and pipe, so he's like a snowman? Anyway, Nyao's outfit was inspired by the Oakland A's...I've always loved how yellow and green look together.

Since Nyao is super strong, I gave her the bag of presents, plus she gets a cookie because I imagine she's eager to take the spoils of doing the work of distributing joy.

Not normal,


Monday, December 26, 2016


I decided to draw some Christmas-themed Copic portraits of my main characters in my little 100yen pocket sketchbook, first up Vicky Vasquez.

This came out a little more somber than I was envisioning, but, as I'm discovering, they kind of tell me what's going on as I draw them...she's a workaholic so she doesn't like being forced to take time off in December.

So she's kinda in shellshock mode without the constant buzzing and bustle of her regular work "life" to fall back on.

Next was Fred, which is a revamp of his first color scheme, based on a sketch from a random session.

This piece determined what I wanted to do with this little series: corresponding, minimally busy backgrounds using red or green, with a Christmas-themed hat.

Usually the guy of the pair is Santa and the girl is the elf, so I thought it'd be funny to switch it around since Vicky's the boss anyway. So, having done these relatively more straightforward shots, I knew I wanted to do the ZLM duo with a little more care next.

Not normal,


Friday, December 23, 2016


A lot of Coverage Draft-related drawings lately...but we're building to it. Anyway, I kept imagining this scene when listening to "For Me This is Heaven" by Jimmy Eat World, upon discovering their older songs recently.

Actually, speaking of which, isn't this the more appropriate Jimmy Eat World song today? Yes, looking at the calendar, but as for the drawing, no. I love how "For Me" has a sort of senior-explaining-to-junior vibe, that's precisely how Fred and Vicky's relationship is...she has to sort of break stuff to him, explain stuff to him, watch out for him. But at the same time, she tries not to let him in too much; it's a bit of a one-way street. She's his boss, after all.

Anyway, I imagine Vicky and Fred both kinda go into an exhausted, utterly spent numb-state after an event ends, and they're sorta aimlessly sauntering home to the "real world" after determining every possible ounce of work has finished. Fred is just kinda bummed the action is over, but for Vicky, there's that mild-but-growing post-gig depression immediately creeping over her that she always has to scramble to mask.

Events ending just hits Vicky harder, but again, looking out for Fred (and ultimately/mostly herself insomuch as not to kindle his suspicion she's only human), she doesn't admit how hollowing it is for her to step away. Fred just assumes his workaholic boss is just feeling a little tired or maybe is similarly bummed another action-packed event has come to a close. She must have some last minute details to wrap, so he's loyally, patiently waiting for the final word.

So tonight, they're strolling along and prolonging the night, yet not really accomplishing anything in particular. Vicky still keeps from outriht dismissing him from duty, not out of fondness for him per se, but just so she doesn't have to deal with the finality of calling it a day--of having to face the inactivity of missionlessness, the silence of solitude. There's nothing for her outside of work.

Not normal,


Wednesday, December 21, 2016


My gosh. What an ordeal it's been the past few days. Exhausted.

Just got back from that most magical of Christmaslands in Japan, Shinagawa.

The place looks horrifying.

I always think it's funny how similar "Shinagawa" sounds to "Shinegawa," which is the difference between the rough translations, "goods/merchandise river" and "die/kill-yourself river." I suppose for some it's one, for others, the other...

Anyway, we managed to get everything in order, just in the St. Nick of time.

So we've at least got some breathing room. Everything's ok, for now. Ho ho hum.

Not normal,


Monday, December 19, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016


I'm scrambling to get out of the same pitfalls I keep lunging back into time and time again with these stupid bust shots, but at the same time I want to make something presentable, yet it feels like the only execution I can do without imploding a piece is this one. The constant problem is that everything else feels like an uphill battle...that's not good. I should be beyond that at this point.

In a fit of frustration trying to make something original, I just decided to color these old lines since everything else was going nowhere, but even then, this color scheme ended up feeling oddly familiar.

I'm trying to work on my speed, so I figured I should be able to turn these colors around reasonably quickly, but even this took longer than I was hoping for. I started painting this, but it was taking forever and still looking like garbage, so I went for cel shades, again, more pitfall regression.

On the plus side, I did try implementing feedback I got from Tokyo Comic-Con here, namely being more strict on how I deal with blurring the background. One piece of advice I thought was funny was that reviewer suggested chromatic aberration, which I'd always thought was cheesy if done any more blatantly than I already do it! Anyway, I also continue my quest to draw a compelling redheaded character.

This is the version I prepped for Twitter. I worry the pressure I feel to make something daily for Twitter and Instagram is detrimental to my overall it better to post something maybe even only once a week than daily? Is the daily production cycle more beneficial for pushing me to make something presentable every day? Is it acceptable to post WIP stuff without already having the final to present, too? I don't know.

Not normal,


Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I'm desperately trying not to draw the same thing over and over again and quite frankly, I keep failing miserably. Every time I try to do something totally out of my comfort zone it goes to ruin, so I tried doing something here I've never done before--a digital still life drawing of my desk.

The dash of pink is a reference to an artist who expertly uses similar pinks and purples as one of his signature elements. That slip of paper contains a bunch of notes I have been preparing for him. I like how it also has echoes of a "pink slip," which is a humorous coincidence, given how things have been going lately.

Not normal,


Monday, December 12, 2016


This is really a random sketch, I believe the only motivation was to draw a black girl with wacky hair, but then I was craving some pizza, so I threw that in there, too, as well as a shirt with my favorite randoword to slap on costuming.

I also wanted to draw something other than my normal trap of just a regular old person standing straight-up for a portrait, so a weird pose was also necessary. For the background, I used a photo from a new-to-me Family Mart that opened near the place I used to play FNM at.

All this real-world garbage my home country is doing...I'm just running on fumes lately, in terms of motivation, so I was desperately trying to finish a sketch to make myself feel like I'm accomplishing something while working on a larger piece. Also awaiting for a certain deadline that I only presume will change my life in a sad way. At least it's raining least there's that. I love the rain.

Not normal,


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,


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,