Joseph Hallenbeck

February 23, 2011

Gnome Sheet

Filed under: Sketch Journal — Joseph @ 12:45 am

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Gnome Character Sheet

If you actually read my blog entries you might begin to notice a very nice pattern to them. It begins “I promise to start updating!” Soon after making such a promise, I look at the comics to come and realize that they suck. I drag my feet on releasing them. I dabble with just starting over. I draw some character sketches. I “practice” my inking. So very many excuses, and fortunately, so very few readers to complain!

My excuse this time? I am working on the script and the background. When I began to write up the background, I found myself really getting into it. Suddenly characters had purpose, the world had a map, and the plot flowed out. However, I noticed some problems. First, much of what I wanted to do with the characters ran contradictory to what the comic already established. If I continued posting the present line of comics unedited, I would only push myself further from my plans.

Instead, you get more filler art and this week’s entry is the Gnome.

Who is the Gnome? Well he is a gnome of course! In appearance, he is a short, angry little earth spirit who was quite fed up with the big people of the world bumbling into his affairs. Already, the comic establishes that his manners are rather lacking and he is fond of arguing.

The Gnome was the first character whose design came together. I started with a big circle for the nose, then the rim of the hat above, then drew tuffs of hair sticking out from beneath, forming a circle around his face. The Gnome’s body extends out from the edges of the beard to make a barrel shape. His cloths are rather traditional. Whenever I imagine Gnomes or Dwarves in their casual wear it’s always in the form of big boots, baggy trousers, and a tunic of some sort. In the case of this dwarf his tunic is a kosovorotka, a traditional Russian shirt known for its skewed collar. Out of everyone, the Dwarf has been at the End of the World the longest, and so his clothing is ragged and patched from many years of use.

February 3, 2011

Som Sheet, Scan #2

Filed under: Sketch Journal — Joseph @ 8:42 pm

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Som, Hi Res Scan
Continuing the series of character sheets from the past two days. . .

Today, let’s look at the 1200DPI scan of the character sheet. The higher-resolution scan resulted in a 75MB TIFF image that crawled even my design rig to a halt. I put the 1200DPI scan through the same process as the 300DPI scan, but this time I found a surprising change when it came time for live-tracing. The Illustrator traced the image correctly without my fiddling with the threshold! I still had the nice smoothing effect that live trace gave to my inks, but with the higher resolution it kept the finer details of the faces and smaller arcs. It also enclosed more of the spaces making the live paint process a much smoother operation that required only a minimum amount of readjusting the automated gap finding.

So my conclusion? Scan big!

February 2, 2011

Som Sheet, Scan #1

Filed under: Sketch Journal — Joseph @ 8:20 pm

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Som, Low-Res Scan

I continue the parade of character sheets from yesterday.

Recall that I mentioned scanning the sheet at both 300DPI and 1200DPI, the result of the lower-resolution scan is what we will examine today. After scanning the sketch, I opened Photoshop and adjusted the levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels or Image > Adjustments > Curves) to give the inked lines a rich black look. Then I placed the image into illustrator and set the program to live trace. The benefit of live trace is two fold. Illustrator inks much better than I. The results smooth out many of the “shaky hand” errors, closes up gaps, and gives the image a much more unified tone. It also allows live paint, which turns coloring the work into a paint-by-numbers process of picking a swatch color and then clicking to fill the spaces inside the contour lines — much less time consuming than shading with ink washes.

Three problems immediately became apparent.

First, fine details such as the faces disappeared. This required a good deal of fine tuning of live trace’s “threshold” option. If I pushed the threshold too high the thicker lines became massive black smudges that lost much of their details, but if I dropped the threshold too low smaller lines disappeared. The result was a balance of the two extremes that failed to adequately capture the details of the original inking.

Second, live trace smoothed over much of the finer line arcs. This is most noticeable on the two center characters. The profile version loses the arc that defined her upper lip, creating what looks like a single curve from the tip of the nose to the chin rather than two smaller arcs. The face of the forward character loses definition in her shape. The original image showed the left-side of her face having much sharper angles.

Third, and this became evident only once I began live painting. The loss of finer details meant that many of the lines no longer connected to create enclosed coloring areas. The live paint process thus became much more tedious as I had to either fine tune the gap-fill, or go into the pen tool and move many of the lines closer together to enclose gaps so that I could easily color.

The solution? Quite easy, but I’ll get into that tomorrow. . .

Field Report

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The campaign continues as I work to spread my resume about to those employers who would take me. Nonetheless, morale weakens and I find myself dabbling more and more in various research projects. I assessed my skills over Christmas, and found myself rather diverse. I am a writer, graphic designer, photographer, and programmer. Fitting all of those into one job title is difficult. Fortunately, I find that a lot of rural areas I’m looking at are looking for weird hybrid web developers. Rural organizations are more likely to want someone who can design, code, and draft content for a site – an all-in-one package like myself! (Now, if only they would hire me.)

Last year, I devoted myself to working on art and writing. The result was the successful publication of some poetry, the creation of a few blog sites, and the income of $16.85 for four months of work.

Perhaps blog writing won’t pay the bills after all. Than again, picking something as obscure as cynical philosophy was a poor choice. The people who understand the humor of cynical philosophy are few. The people who will misinterpret cynical philosophy, and think me mad, are many. Thus, I decided to retire to subdomain hell, and will soon replace it with a new blog focusing on providing cultural commentary for such geeky subjects as comics, games, anime, film, and literature.

Speaking of geeky, my webcomic “Drifting in the Sea of Nihilism” will begin regular biweekly updates starting next Monday (now with improved writing and art).

I would be happy to fall into any one of the careers that use my abilities. I would be ecstatic to make a living off comics and writing. Nonetheless, looking at the job market for Montana I see only one of my skill-sets that regularly pops up: web development. Well, if this is what the people demand, than so be it!

My regiment for this year is rigorous. I want to get atop the entire web development field and get myself into the cutting edge of skills. I set up a reading list including everything from discrete mathematics, design patterns, and new web technologies to items like business and project management. Already I reread my texts on PHP, MySQL, Apache, Illustrator, and Flash (in one month), and I have new texts on web security, ajax, and PHP design patterns in the mail.

I have some killer projects planned out for the following months – projects that will test my skills and serve as ideal portfolio pieces. Here’s a list of possible ideas:

  • A complete overhaul of  the portfolio site to incorporate more CMS and flash elements (seriously, this place is two years old and no longer represents the range of my creative skills)
  • A database-driven ticket and invoice system for freelance design work
  • A database-driven browser-based multiplayer game
  • A facebook app that uses web services to create a virtual bookshelf (I know, I know, this already exists. However, the current implementation of this app is bad, I can do better)

February 1, 2011

Somnaire Character Sheet

Filed under: Sketch Journal — Joseph @ 10:15 pm

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Robert Henri, Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes

Let me begin my series of filler sketches by going over some character sheets. In the past months, I’ve sketched the characters over and over again. Some character like the Dwarf, or Don came naturally to me. I sketched them down once, thought them satisfactory, and went on my way. Som and Ivan, however, never felt right. Occasionally, I get a frame where I think “yes, this is right. This is what Som should look like.” More often, I flounder about and the only connection from one frame to the next is that she’s the only female caste member. Thus, this week I present a series of character sketches created as I tried to nail down her design.

I spent a lot of time sketching Som because some part of me wants her character to look right and wants her to have the right appearance and a consistent look from one frame to the next. My lack of proper life-drawing skills shines through with her character. While Don and the Dwarf can get away with being abstract boxes and bulbous shapes, I wanted the characters of Som and Ivan to have more realistic proportions which entailed a less abstract approach to their characters.

A lot of Som’s clothing is based on Robert Henri’s paintings from the turn of the twentieth century. There is something very sensual about how the woman hold themselves in Henri’s work. They exude a kind of self confidence that makes them seem powerful and seductive. Certainly, this doesn’t fit the personality of Som. However, there will come future female caste members who might embody more of that spirit. Nonetheless, the dresses of that period are so gorgeous in their complexity. I saw Henri’s painting of Jessica Penn while living in Seattle last spring and I instantly wanted to find some way of incorporating that dress into the comic, and behold this Monday, I made it in!

Som Character Sheet
The character sheet above is done on standard sketch paper of 8-1/2″ by 11″ with a 4H pencil then inked with a size #0 Winsor 7 sable brush using Indian ink. I scanned the image in at 300DPI and 1200DPI using a flatbed scanner. I give these details only for the more technically minded, but take note of the DPI, as I found significant changes to the end result based on my initial scanning resolution.  Progressing from right to left I drew Som facing forward and than profiling the page. The Jessica Penn dress makes its appearance, but I imagine it will rarely be seen since most of the comic takes place outside and so she will be wearing her traveling cape through most of the comic. This is quite convenient as the dress is more time consuming to draw. I am happy with the results of the profile images as well as the drawing on the far right. Nonetheless, I am unsatisfied with the front-view cape image as she appears to be scowling, an effect I didn’t want to create.

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