Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 - Year In Review

One of my favorite things to do in life is to look back on all that has transpired over the course of a year and assess where things are in relation to goals, new goals, enjoyment and other of life's fun things. So here is my list for favorite things in this past year, beginning with something fun.

5 Favorite Movies of the Year

5. Coraline
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
3. Star Trek
2. District 9
1. Up

5 Books I Most Enjoyed This Year (In No Particular Order)


5. Found
4. The Lightning Thief
3. Ultimate Galactus
2. Amulet 2
1. 100 Cupboards

Biggest Lessons Learned This Year

- To Be thankful for all of the great blessings God has blessed me with today, and not spend so much time thinking on the future.
- Dreams are great to have, and should be worked diligently towards, but they pale in comparison to many other things like family, friends and service towards others. They must be kept in their proper place.
- The publishing world requires a lot of patience. Publishing on the web, just requires my time. Both of which I am fine with.
- Parenting is both a joyous and hard task. I can only pray I'm doing a good job.

10 Favorite Moments of the Year (In No Particular Order)

10. Writing a complete script for a graphic novel, The Unknowns books 1.
9. Finishing all of the line art for From Death Til Now volume 1.
8. Going on our first family trip to Disney.
7. Finding out I'll be an uncle again. Twice!

6. Getting promoted at work.
5. Watching my daughter grow up all year long.
4. Signing with my literary agent, pitching our first book and seeing doors open for the future.
3. Seeing my name in print on a comic book. Check out the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi to see my name bringing the supporting role, beginning with volume 2.
2. Going up to NYC to visit my father.
1. Celebrating another year with my amazing wife.


So this is a bit of an abbreviated list. I do a lot more thinking on things, especially on New Year's Eve night. I'm a bit of a resolution setter. I think having goals and working towards them is a great thing for anyone to do. They should be goals that you really do care about though. Not throw offs that you just put down on paper to say you did it. I think long and hard about what those things are and if they are obtainable. If they aren't I try and set stepping stones to get the process started. So, I hope you enjoyed my look back at the year. Feel free to share your favorite moments here too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awesome Video Interview With N. D. Wilson

My favorite children's author has an interview that was posted up on youtube recently. Thought I'd share it. Again he brings some awesome words of wisdom on the craft:



Also, check out an interview he did about his other book called Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl, a compilation of thoughts and essays on God and His world. Also great reading:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

First Peek At "THE KING'S GAME" - Page Process

So, I have been working on another pitch for a graphic novel that is under the working title of The King's Game. I thought it would be fun to share with you all the first completed page and show you how I did it. Let's start with the original image:

This was my first concept of what the page would look like. I had the idea of it being a small coliseum with a water pit and you wouldn't see any of the creatures in the water until later when our hero's ended up in it. The image was useful for the the intimacy of the event, but eventually I thought (and with other great input from friends and artists) it needed to be more epic feeling. I then got the idea of putting the whole thing out on an open ocean with a coliseum built on the edge of a rock face which lead to this:

These are my original pencils for the page. I do this all on 8.5 paper. It helps me see the scope of everything in a smaller way. I get lost on a larger format. I take these loose scribblings and scan them into the computer.

As you may have seen in an earlier post on my Bounty Hunter drawing, I then convert these lines to red line art in PS using a fill layer and set the layer to Screen. This will turn all of my lines into the shade of red I want. From there I print this out on two pieces of bristol card stock and tap the pages together so I can do the inks. I stick to this format for now because its what my printer handles with ease and I don't think it hurts the final product.

After I've inked the whole thing I scan it into PS and removed the red line art using the Hue/Saturation tool. Then I do some clean ups using a soft white airbrush set to color dodge nd the opacity turned down to 14. This lets me pick up small artifacts that remain after the red has been pulled out and holds up the darker intended lines.
The next step is to Flat the page. This is basically breaking down all of the shapes into layer groups for easy selection. I can then paint freely on one object without fear of it impacting the others around it.

Even more important than color in a painting is the values of the colors. These help things recede and push forward. You can use temperatures to do this as well, but value that works well can create just as stunning of an image as one with vibrant color. Even more so if the artist has no sense of values. So what I've done is started using a fill layer set to a middle gray tone and the layer set to color. I put this on top of everything and will constantly toggle back to it as a way of checking if things are separating like they should and if my focal point is working correctly. I caught a lot of stuff this way.

And finally:

I complete the painting. This thing kicked my butt. I pushed myself hard on this and I think the result is better than I imagined. Its got me excited for the rest of the scene coming up and with this image in place, I'm set to start painting the rest of the scene.



Friday, November 13, 2009

The Process Starts All Over Again

Well the whole process for The Unknowns is winding down to what appears to be a no go at this time for it getting picked up. That's put me back at square one with everything as far as preparing a comic for submission to publishers. I actually really enjoy this process. The Unknowns got really solid readback from a few big publishing houses and I don't hate them for not picking it up. They have to make a business decision and unfortunately they passed for now. For now. :-) The door is still open. Not all responses have been returned. You know who you are.

But if you want to get something published in a traditional manner I have learned two big things; patience and continued work. The down time between finishing up one project and pitching the next is not chillax time. It's the time you use to prepare the next thing.

So I sat down this week and started penciling up the preview sequence for the next project. My agent was really excited about this one when I first showed him an image of it. Which really got me pumped because I was already excited to get the ball rolling on it. I put together the roughs and started cracking. This project has felt like, as Kazu Kibuishi sometimes says, editing a movie. I have used the pencils from several pages and then went back and completely rearranged the layouts and angles from the shots. Forming either whole new pages or more dynamic shots. Photoshop has really made this process easier. It's weird looking at the first two penciled pages because I have done two "takes" on them and it feels like two totally different cuts of the same moments. Only heightened in the second versions. It's been the hardest I've ever worked on creating a sequence. Thanks to Josh Ulrich for some really good suggestions and keeping me honest. You're making it awesome with me! I'm happy to say, it's also shaping up to be one beast of a preview. Truly terrifying.

One of the things I have spent a lot of time thinking about lately has been the place that webcomics is going to have in my future moving forward. It seems a lot of people take one and leave the other. Meaning going through a standard publisher and/or striking it out on your own through webcomics.

I owe a lot to webcomics. My graphic novel From Death Til Now has given me the courage and confidence in my own abilities that I can create the stories I want. And the beauty of all of it is, that the web will ALWAYS allow for that. Meaning that while I am going after a publishing deal for several of my properties, I am not depending on them to be the life or death of my projects. The Unknowns may become a webcomic at some point. And I think it's just as viable a way to tell my stories or get them out of my head. My hesitation with a project like it and the web is that it's a series of novels and will take years to finish. Just like FDTN, so I don't need another one. But I guess my point is that a successful artist is not one who limits themselves or their opportunities. So with that in mind, I am looking to release a whole new graphic novel web property next year. It will be a one and done style book, so I can get in and get out. But I plan to make it something really special and fun. So we'll see what the new year holds!

And don't worry FDTN readers. It'll be around too. :-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bounty Hunter 2


I spent some time this weekend completely a second drawing of my bounty hunter character. I actually begun it awhile back but things got busy and it took some time. I'm pretty happy with how it call came out. I figuring this digital coloring thing out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Collison

N D Wilson is a writer I have discussed earlier. Well, his father is a pretty prominent person in the Christian world. He and his father edit magazine called the Credenda Agenda. His father also went on a tour of debates with Atheist Christopher Hitchens. They've made a movie about it. Looks pretty intriguing:



Sorry for no big art updates at this time. I've been busy with a lot, but unable to say much for now. Still getting my feet under me. Stay tuned for those updates as they come.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Amulet 3 Update and Video

Days and nights have been filled lately with production assists on Amulet 3. Denver Jackson, Stuart Livingston and myself have been laying down what are called the "flats" for each page. A process you can find out more about here.

The task has been hugley rewarding and fun to get get to know the rest of the crew, which at this time is the "flats crew," Jason Caffoe, Anthony Go Wu and our leader Kazu Kibuishi. I stumbled across this video and thought it was pretty cool for those who like Amulet and for those who would like an intro to the project. This appears to have been made back in the production of book 1. Enjoy!




Monday, October 12, 2009

What To Do While You Wait...

It's been a couple of months of waiting on news regarding The Unknowns. We had some interest from a large publishing house, but we're still holding on to any news from them as well. My agent and others tell me no news is good news at this point. I've also read that this isn't uncommon and so therefore, I should chillax. So, I haven't lost much hope for it. The most difficult thing is the waiting. You spend so much time and energy getting something togther, you're super pumped when it leaves your hands and then you wait.... and wait... and wait. I feel bad for my agent. Not only does he need to sell my material, he has to deal with my impatient, sometimes insecure self. He's always been very kind.

I decided to email him recently to ask what he thought I should be busy working on right now, while we wait. He suggested that I start working on the next idea. Because while we still hold a lot of hope out for The Unknowns, having the next thing ready to go can keep us moving. I've already prepared a packet on my Kevin story to pitch the bigger idea to publishers. I actually am really excited about this idea. I think it's going to be really fun and unique.

I then came up with another idea that I've posted a concept piece from here on the blog already. I can't give much away about it here, but after showing it to my agent and others, the feedback has been really strong. So I've been developing a proposal piece for this and that ought to keep me quite busy while we're waitng for final words. No worries though, it's still too early.

Beyond that, I've found that the best rememdy for idleness is just keeping at things. I recently had to set up a priority list of projects so that I could get some things done. It can be hard to be patient, but when you keep the work in front of you, you stay focused and purposeful with your time.

At least that's what I tell myself... before I click refresh on my email box.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts On Dreams



"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey is one of those songs that every time I hear it, I get a super pumped. (sorry for the crazy ammounts of pop ups that are on this video) But the song reminds to hold on to that which matters most to you.

My wife and I have fallen in love with the show "Glee" which is where this version of this song comes from. What I love so much about this show is that it reinforces a lot of good things that are missing in high school dramas. Now, granted it supports A LOT of things I don't think are very healthy. The core of the show, however, deals with kids getting over themselves and realizing their potential, or embracing a dream. While it may not be a show to live by, point after point, it does have a lot of redeeming qualities: The high school football star realizes he doesn't care what people thinks and pursues his dreams of singing. The struggling teacher finds purpose again in going after a life he's "really passionate about." It's full of those sorts of things.

Why this matters to me is because I think there's a misconception with people. We're all raised as children to believe we can become anything we want to be. We believe it and pretty quickly want to become a dinosaur when we grow up. I kid, obviously, but kids do have real dreams that grow out of themselves from that sort of thing. When I was in third grade I wanted to be a marine biologist. It was then that I had my first adult moment, now that I look back on it.

I pretty well remember being at the beach, playing around with fish in the water and thinking, "I do not feel like studying science this much or touching these things everyday." I then wanted to be a ninja, before taking out a sheet of paper to draw one. Shortly after comics became a real desire in my heart.

So, the misconception I think kids are given is this. We are told we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up, but we tend forget the qualifying statement attached to that: if you work REALLY hard. I spent most of my life in high school wanting to be a comic book artist, but I think drew maybe 15 pages of actual comics work. It wasn't really until about 8 years later that I got really serious about creating comics. I have truly come to appreciate that wisdom of working hard at things. What I think happens with us is we believe that once we go to college for that dream job, we will be able to graduate and end up in our desired field. We're all a bit dismayed when we end up going into a completely different profession. What happens is we get comfortable making a living and that's good for a lot of people. And I do believe that it is enough for a lot people, and that's a great thing. I really do think that. What bothers me are the people who sit watching the tv at night and wonder if they'll ever have a job they love, having a life that they are truly passionate about.

I'm very happy about all of things I have. I have a great job, I have a loving family, home etc. The Lord has been so good to me. But I know where I want to go. And I sing that great ballad by Journey to myself every so often to remind myself to keep going. No matter what. Because I too believe that you should be passionate about the life you live. That means a lot of things to a lot of people. Whatever it is (beyond it being illegal, completely gross or just silly) you should keep that flame alive. Dedicate your life to it and work with all your might. You never know... One day you may realize it's come true.

So get to work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Interview With Kazu Kibuishi

Hey Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for those who come by and visit on occasion. Amulet creator Kazu Kibuishi took some time out to answer some interview questions from me. Kazu is my favorite creator in the business. It's really refreshing to see such family friendly material that just glows on the page. This is the kind of comic making I wish I could have found as a kid.

The sequel to the Amulet series "The Stonekeepers Curse" debuted at the number 2 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Graphic Books - Paperback! I was fortunate enough to be an assistant on this book and I'm really happy Kazu fit some time in his busy schedule to answer these for us.

I hope you all enjoy the interview, and look forward to some more interviews with other artists/creators/friends that inspire me real soon!

-----------------------------


MR: Can you give us an overview of Amulet?

KAZU: Amulet is the story of two kids, Emily and Navin, who travel into a fantasy world to save their mother's life. Emily is aided in her quest by a powerful, and potentially evil, amulet, as well as a host of robots and talking animals.

You've talked a lot about how Silas (Emily and Navin's Great Grandfather) was a puzzle-maker. I was really intrigued by this idea and it figured a bit in the first book. Is that going to become a bigger part of the overall story later? The idea of puzzles?

Yes. Puzzles, and especially games, will play a major part in the last chapters of the series.

As a graphic novel creator myself, I've found a lot of wisdom in seeing you work through a creative process on Amulet. What's been the biggest challenge in creating these single volume graphic novels?

The biggest challenge has been in breaking down the writing process into a short, fast-paced schedule. Once everything is written and thumbnailed, it's very easy to schedule the production. The more I get to know the story and characters, however, I am finding that the writing is becoming more manageable. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the self-discipline. Since much of the book is created in a vacuum- with my publisher a country away and with no formal editor on the project (beginning on Amulet 3) - it's difficult to keep myself motivated to keep progressing at a proper pace.

There are a lot of artists out there who are wanting to create bigger stories like this, but are trying to figure out how to get started. What would be your advice to those out there who are trying to find their way as comic artists, or more importantly, storytellers?

Start out with something simple and manageable. I did many short stories before I even considered tackling a large project professionally. Of course, I did attempt to get large projects started in my free time for many years before Flight, Daisy Kutter, and Amulet, but I never was able to completely follow through. My ambitions were greater than my actual skill and experience. It wasn't until I created the Copper stories, which are single-page standlone stories with a beginning, middle, and end, that I found a way to build confidence as a storyteller. Since then, I began to see storytelling and worldbuilding as something simple and organic. Every story project is the same at their core, whether it's a single Copper comic or an Amulet book, but they can be allowed to grow bigger on their own accord. The concept for Amulet was simple. Much of it was built around two concepts. I wanted to show kids having to grow up faster than they intended, and I wanted to use a fantasy world to get these ideas across. Once that was set into motion, the characters took over and now I follow them. One of the great joys about my job is that I get to see these characters start asking larger questions I never thought to ask before, and I can go on the journey with them to see what answers they can find.

With two volumes now under your belt with Amulet, what have you found to be the best way for writing these single books? Do you approach it as one large script or break it off in pieces?

I write a very brief synopsis of the entire book on one page, and I generally stick to it as my guide. If it reads well in the short form, and people get excited about the book because of it, then I know I have a solid foundation to build on. After that, I break the story up into several manageable chunks and treat each section like I would a short story, and essentially create my own comics anthology. I don't write a script because I find that most times the images alone tell the story very clearly.

I was fortunate enough to help you on Amulet volume 2, The Stonekeepers Curse, and I found the process of working in a group a really rewarding one. I've made some encouraging friends and acquaintances because of it. How do you feel getting back to this type of system is going to open comics up for new creators to get more and more prolific work out there?

It is so much fun doing comics this way, compared to drawing and coloring it all by myself. I think two of the biggest problems a comic artist faces are often loneliness and an overwhelming amount of work. By collaborating with others who are excited about the project, much of the pain caused by these problems is alleviated. Perhaps it's because I just like being around people, but this system works well for me. Hopefully, this type of set up encourages people who are used to working in large companies to make the transition to drawing comics professionally.

We've been seeing a real encouraging boom in all ages graphic novels which has been great for everyone. Do you feel like finally comics are being given some real credit in help young people read and in education?

Since I grew up during a time when comics were extremely popular and watched as that popularity imploded over the years, I feel more like we're just beginning to get back on track with creating comics that service a true mainstream audience. The audience has, at least over the past decade, wanted comics to be a part of their life, but the creators moved away from the mainstream audience to service a very vocal minority, and by doing so backed themselves into a corner. The widely growing use of all ages comics as a developmental tool is a reflection of both children who are hungry for fun comics material (since very few people have been creating work for them) and an adult audience wanting to pass their love of comics down to the younger generations. The creators of comics are the ones who need to step forward and accept the social responsibilties of educating and entertaining the young readers, so it's not so much that the audience has been embracing the all ages comics but that the creators are more willing to make material for them.

You've started up a studio system now and you've been preparing a couple of new graphic novel projects. How has that experience been and is there anything you can share with us about those new projects?

The experience has been great. Get back to me in a couple of years and I'll let you know if it turns out well!

Thank you for your time. I can't wait for next volume of Amulet and everything else coming out of your studio!

Thanks Michael! And thanks for your help on Amulet 2!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From Death Til Now Comes Back!


From Death Til Now
, my online graphic novel, is back in full swing with weekly updates. It was really nice to spend some time finishing up the line art of the first book. Hopefully soon I will pick up the weekly updates to more than one page a week. It's been nice to get back in the saddle though and start seeing some finished pages again.

In other news, Amulet 2 debut at the number 2 slot on the New York Times Bestsellers list for paperback graphic novels. Congrats to Kazu and the rest of the crew on a great book and first week!

See everyone next week with the next FDTN page.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amulet 2 Hits Shelves Today

Above is a piece of fan art I did for the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. When I sat down to do this, I really wanted to do something that felt like an official style poster since I've been working on my design skills. I'm happy with the result :-)

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the crew of people working on the sequel to this awesome graphic novel series: Amulet: The Stonekeepers Curse. I owe a lot to Kazu and his contributions to comics. He's been very kind to all of us who've helped him. The people I've gotten to know as a result to working on this has been a real added bonus. You guys are awesome and I hope I get to know all of you better.

If you haven't read the series or are already a fan, let me tell you, book 2 is awesome. It's everything you'd hope for in a sequel to the first book. So, pick it up everybody!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Game


This week's painting is a conceptual painting around a story idea I am still in the infant stage on, called "The Game." It was quite the challenge to push myself on. Hope you all enjoy it. Click the image above to view the larger file.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taking The Time Out For Me

Lately I've spent a lot of time drawing and painting for myself. This past two weeks I've drawn five illustrations and painted two. The first one was the Bounty Hunter (see below) and the second was a fun pin up I had drawn of the Amulet series awhile back that I had never painted. What was so rewarding about this is that I have never really allowed myself to just do this stuff for the sake of doing it in years. Since I graduated college I have spent most of my time drawing and painting as a career thing, to one degree or another. While I'm still doing a lot of work for projects that are coming up, this has been a really refreshing time for me. I've always wanted to spend more time working on building up better single image style drawing. Over the coming weeks expect to see a lot of one off drawings here on the board. I'll post my Amulet piece once the book comes out. I don't want any spoiler type things at this point, but I was really happy with it. So a word to all of you hard workers out there. Take some time to splurge on yourself creatively. Mentally you need it sometimes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bounty Hunter

I drew for pure fun today for the first time in a long while. I decided to spend some time drawing a character I had been developing a few months back. I'm pretty happy with how it came out.
I decided it would be cool to show you all my process. So here's how it all starts...

This is the original rough drawing. I make a lot of mistakes in my drawing process, so doing my initial drawing this way really lets me be messy and get what I always intended from the drawing.

I then scan that drawing into the computer and convert the pencil line work to red lines like so...

Then I print that off on a sheet of bristol and draw it all again using a 2B pencil which helps the coloring process have a more painterly feel.

And well, you've already seen the finished product. From here I flat the whole thing in with simple colors and go to town coloring.

I meant to save an image of the flats, but I had forgot.

Project Round Up!

Things are kind of in a lull at the moment, so I thought it would be a good time to recap the status of my projects.

The biggest news is Kazu Kibuishi's "Amulet: The Stonekeepers Curse" is coming out in just a couple of weeks! I was able to be a part of the production on this outstanding book by being a part of the color flatting process. I'm pretty stinkin excited that my first published credit for comics work is going to be on this great series. So be sure to pick up a copy on September 1st! Kazu has also agreed to do an interview sometime soon, so I look forward to sharing that here whenever we can get that done.
I decided pretty recently to take my "Kevin and the Golden Temple" story out of the workings for the anthology project it was originally slated for. No offense to the anthology really, I'm still going to try and put something together for them. I just didn't feel I was doing the story much justice in the way I had to kind pace it and all. I'm still developing this world and I really think the story is something that will be fun and exciting for kids!
From Death Til Now is still continuing on at a steady pace. I've started focusing more on the computer and toning end of things which has been nice. My brain was a bit in overload on the drawing/thumbnailing side of things. I plan to resume regular updates on this book online in the month of September. Hopefully speeding up to a completion of book 1 in the early part of 2010. Looking at Josh Ulrich's color sample makes think volume 2 may almost certainly be in color!

Other than that, I'm busy working on a new portrait commission which looks to be really special. Also, because I can barely contain myself any longer, I started writing the treatment for "The Unknowns" book 2.I still need the series to sell , but I had to get my ideas for how the story would continue down on paper before they slipped away into oblivion!

The next couple of weeks look to be a bit slow, which is alright because my birthday is around the corner and then From Death Til Now will be back to spreading the mystery. For now, its time to do some doodling.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

100 Cupboards and The Role of a "Christian Writer"


A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book I had never heard of before called "100 Cupboards." I'm not quite sure why I bought it. I had never heard of it before. No one had given my a recommendation to pick it up, but I did nonetheless. Mostly I think because I had a nagging desire that I had to read it. I get that way sometimes. Most of you probably have the same experience. You go to a store, or you're driving and for some reason you know you should go somewhere, read something, meet someone... Some would call this coincidence or generalize this and call it fate. Being a Christian, I call it God leading me. When I feel that urge, barring no direct understanding of why something could be evil (discernment would be the word) I will without much hesitation, go and do that thing. Usually to much good in my life. I can give numerous examples. Well, not to digress too far, but I say all of that because I was wondering why was I so drawn to this book! The answer was encouraging.

First off let me say a word about the actual content of the book. It was awesome! If you haven't read it, please do. I think you will find a modern children's classic in it and its sequel "Dandelion Fire" has been awesome so far. It gives off so much of the vibe I have been longing for recently with the void I have been feeling every time I crack open a new book from my bookshelf. It's creepy, funny, inspiring and smart stuff in this series that feels like a cross between "Chronicles of Narnia" and "A Wrinkle In Time." My wife hasn't picked up a book in years for pleasure reading and she read it after me, finishing it in two days.

But what really encouraged me about this book was the author of the series. N D Wilson has all of the markings of one of the more imaginative and bold writers in the current children's book industry. Especially in "Dandelion Fire" Wilson shows a bravado not many would attempt to take. Beyond his talents as a writer, it's who he is as a writer that has been encouraging. N D Wilson is a no bones about it Christian. Why this is so encouraging to me is because I find it completely disheartening at the lack of Christians, or at least those who show no shame in the fact of what they believe in as if it's a crime (present company sometimes included), that are writing books for all audiences and not tailored for a Christian only audience. I used to work in a Christian book store years back and it would make my stomach turn everytime I would walk through the fiction section there. It all just felt forced, devoid of genuine heart and, honestly, any real substance we could all chew on... Christian or not.

As a Christian, my world-view dominates the writings I do. I don't try to force an issue on people though, nor do I spend time skirting it I hope. I believe what I believe, and that will inform me and the directions I will take with my stories. The danger so many of us (Christian authors I mean here) is that we feel we must force God into a story, instead of understanding that he already is there, regardless of what your characters believe in, or the subject matter. It's a given. your job is to tell a good story. Period. And along the way it would be appropriate to not debase yourself to writing garbage. Hopefully you know what I mean by that. If not, think on it.

Some of the most beloved books in our history were written by Christians, but the content of the story can seem devoid of any real biblical overtones. When Tolkien was asked about the Christian content of his writings, whether it was deliberate, he said no, but that he couldn't help what he believed in coming through. The stuff that matters, the ones that find a place with people, are the books that are genuine in telling a good clean story. I believe no matter what, we are to be good storytellers and that all people should be able to enjoy whatever it is we're writing. If in the end it sparks discussion amongst its readers, then great! What I found in N D Wilson (so far) is someone who exemplifies an attitude and approach to being both a writer and a Christian that I think is right. He writes good stories first and foremost. Anything else you either glean from it through personal introspection, or find by examining his life. And for this reason I think this book will have a long impact on people, myself included.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

FDTN is Coming Back!

I'm closing in now on the final ten pages of pencils and inks for book 1. I've been thinking the last few weeks as to when to resume online updates and I think I will start things back up in September. I will probably go back to one page a week updates for the time being until I one hundred percent have locked the book down just so I can start building a web presence again. It's been really exhilarating to be putting the final pages to bed on my first graphic novel. It feels like a true accomplishment. Even more gratifying is that I did this book with really no financial reward in sight. What that confirms to me is that I am really working in a field that I truly enjoy and want to continue doing. So, soon I'll start posting some other tidbits. But things are getting closer.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"The Unknowns" Is On The Clock

About a week and a half ago my agent let me know that The Unknowns had been sent out to publishers for consideration for publication. I thought once the book finally got out there and was being looked at by publishers that I would feel a bit more sane about the process. You know, just knowing that the final clock was ticking. Instead, I've found the whole experience to be much more exhilarating and nerve racking than I thought. The thought that this idea I came up with three and a half years ago while sitting in a laundry-mat is out there being seriously considered by some of the biggest publishers in the world, has me altogether humbled.

Comics have been a childhood dream I've clung to far longer than good sense would usually keep people going. I've pressed on despite the ridicule of some of my art teachers, friends and even family. It is a passion to which I know of no real sedative. If anything I know I've gotten farther than many ever have. Merely because I kept going.

I don't know how I will feel once all of the tallies have come in from across the publishing world. I suspect now is a time for dreaming and hoping rather than preparing. But I think most of all I think I will keep going. Just like I always have. Regardless. Why? Because I don't know any better. And because I feel at home when I make my silly picture books. So, cheers to the jitters. You remind me I still care.

I also sat back down recently (as in finished it today) and reread my fifth draft of The Unknowns book 1. During my time away from it I had started to come up with all of these little scenes I thought should be added. As I read it again, I started to think otherwise. This book is the tightly spun story I think it should be. It's no Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in length, but it doesn't need to be either. It sets up the world and the conflict very quickly and establishes the boundaries of our characters. A lot of the character building stuff I had in mind I felt could perfectly wait until a later volume and quite honestly it would be better served there. This book needs to be a hook and as such it needs to causes us all to wonder what's going on in the house of our next door neighbor. And to that end I think it is successful.

I have a ton of corrections and ommitences to take from the text still, but I think that will wait. I want to give myself some time to read some more of the book "100 Cupboards" by N D Wilson before I get ready to pass out. This book is awesome guys. I may have found a new favorite author!

At any rate. I won't be saying much else on the progress of The Unknowns until I know exactly what is happening with it. But in the meantime, I will be busy praying, biting my nails and trying to stay busy with the other ideas coming from my brain. And finishing From Death Til Now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kevin And The Golden Temple

I finally finished my first pass at my serialized short story called "Kevin and the Golden Temple." It's pretty exciting to see it locked and the realization of a simple story idea I had years ago come into something pretty fun and exciting. I'm still workingin one possible page to help flesh out a few ideas.

Other than that From Death Til Now is continuing its clip to the end. There's only maybe ten pages left to draw and then begins the process of doing all of the computer shading. Again, if any of you artists out there have time and want to help, please let me know. I am looking for some volunteers.

The Unknowns is still on the burner for now, but I've been rereading my script and thinking a lot work can still be done (surprise right?). I mainly think the ideas could be fleshed out a bit more when it comes to the characters themselves. It feels like it could have a few more quiet moments in it. As it stands it feels a bit like a roller coaster, which is good I suppose. I suspect many changes will still come to mind. Eventually though you got to lock things down and believe you've written the best thing you could. Well, more work ahead I guess. :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Progress of Late

Things have been moving along a bit slower the last couple of weeks. My wife mandated a no comics week last week for me as I had nearly burned myself out writing and drawing eight pages of From Death Til Now a week. It was just sort of time to put my mind on other things. So I spent one morning out a park with my bible, a book and a journal. It was time well spent. I really calmed my spirit down on things. By Saturday I was champing at the bit to get back to work. I was able to get some work done on Kevin and the Golden Temple and do some mapping out of the final two scenes in From Death Til Now book 1.

Lesson I learned from the last few weeks/year. We can all have goals and ambitions. But when those goals get in the way of us enjoying those around us, our health and/or our enjoyment of the very field we're creating in... well we've probably gone too far. The real trick is using time wisely. Taking the moments most spending idling away the day to really get productive. You have to stay driven and motivated, but it needs a balance.

So far this week I've finished the painting on the Kevin story. I've also completed one of the major reveal spreads in From Death Til Now and knocked out one standard page as well. It feels good to be back in the saddle again. Work is getting done, but more importantly I'm approaching the work from a simpler heart and that's really making a difference in my day. Here's an art moment for you today. It's a panel from page 137 of FDTN. Who's behind that mask? I dunno! guesses?

Enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ending Earlier Than Expected

Well, after quite a bit of thinking and tinkering with the final chapter of FDTN. I ultimately decided the firt book would be better served if I ended it in about fifteen pages. Thematically the original ending of the book just felt off when you saw it withink the context of the rest of it. This feels much more mysterious and appropriate for a book 1 ender.

This is exciting for me though, because I will be finishing my first graphic novel, line art wise, in about a month! Then it will be the rigorous process of grayshading all of the new pages (about 50) and cleaning up older pages. It's exciting though and has me REALLY excited for book 2, since so much content is being shifted!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

FDTN The Special Edition

As a part of finishing up book 1 of FDTN I felt pretty adamant that the original four pages needed to be updated to match the quality of the current pages. Much of the early stuff still holds up, but that scene feels so off compared to the later work. Like the characters don't even look like their current incarnations. So I've spent the last week redoing those pages, while working on the structure for what may be the last chapter of book 1. It also fits well to redo these pages as chapter 4 starts where the beginning of the book ended. It makes me both proud and embarassed to look at the comparison. See for yourself!

Original Page:

Updated Linework:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Comics - Marvel Team Up Style

Inspired by my experience working on Amulet 2 and the great fun I had getting to know the other artists, and the same experience my friend Josh Ulrich has had working with Dave Riddick on Legend of Bill: We've decided to join forces for one super comics creating monster.

Because of my work schedule and availability, doing the computer side of comics production is just not as easy or accessible for me. I spend my down time during my day inking comics the old school way. Josh on the other hand is much more comfortable and available to create comics on the computer. We decided we'd give something a go. I will be inking his comic "Newman" for him and he'll be lending a hand to the flatting and toning of "From Death Til Now." We've experimented a bit on a few pages and the results have been nice!


Jumping into the inking process on Newman was pretty seemless I think. I already had a pretty solid feel for what Josh likes in his inks and it great fun playing around in his universe. A much nicer place to be than the trembling drama of my own book, lol.

Josh wanted to give coloring FDTN a try and I wholeheartedly encouraged it. I was really really excited about the prospect of seeing the book in color an he gave some great reasons for me to want to go that way. See the above example. But ultimately I decided to keep trucking in grayscale for volume one. There's just too much to go back and do. Though looking at the above image gets me pumped!

But the best thing has been just working with a close friend and sharing our talents on each others books. We're gonna give it a go, and with any luck we'll be done with FDTN vol 1 and Newman book 1 by the end of the year. Its exciting to try and build a type of studio collaborative environment and share the load. It lets me chillax a bit more! And keep chugging on the penciling and inking! Now back to work.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jeremy Mullins

I just heard the terrible news today that Professor Jeremy Mullins of SCAD's sequential art program passed away this weekend. I am a big fan of the Seqalab podcast and losing him moves me deeply. I never went to SCAD, but it is the school I always wanted to attend. He seemed like the kind of teacher I wouldn't be able to keep myself from hanging out around. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of his friends, family and students as they mourn. I will miss him greatly, waiting for me each Tuesday and Thursday on my iPod.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Early Preview of What's To Come In FDTN



I feel a little guilty showing this off so early, like I'm spoiling such a great moment, but I figured I gotta show it to wet your appetites. This is a double page spread that is coming up. I'm so stinking proud of the original art on this! I look at it and think of how far the quality of my line work and my work ethic has come since I began. FDTN will celebrate two years of being on the web really soon and its sad we're not doing updates currently, but I am very pleased to say that I am on track to complete all of the finished line work in about three months. For those at home that's 80-90 pages in three months! This new process I've worked up has been a huge boost to the production and I'm so excited to share it all with you. So click on the page above and get a bigger view!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A New Approach

I recently tried approaching the creation of my comics from a different angle and the results have been positive so far. Before, I would create a simple thumbnail drawing to get the jest of the scene down and see the flow of the storytelling. I would then create the finished drawing on the final page. All in all this was pretty quick but it wasn't favorable when trying to think in big chunks because it required spending a lot of time on individual pages rather than on seeing the overall flow of a scene and the pacing.

So now I've started creating a thumbail of an entire chapter or scene so I can gage the work as a whole. Then I take that and create a tighter thumbnail drawing that I would then reprint on my bristol and ink. What this helped me do is that I can sketch the scene out in pencil form much faster and get more done in a consolidated ammount of time. Above is an example of a tightened thumbnail. I'm still trying this out so I'm unsure of how much I'll like it in the long run, but the experience has been favorable. I hope it will come more into play and allow for a smoother work flow for when I tackle The Unknowns or some other bigger project. For now, From Death Til Now is the guinea pig.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

New FDTN sketch and rebranding


Well at last I am posting some of the sketching I've been doing. I'm trying to get back into the feel of some of the characters we haven't seen in awhile. Mainly Thomas. He features pretty heavy in the end of this book. So, I figured I'd better get a grip on how to draw him again. Click the image above to enlarge.


Also, I have decided that once FDTN comes back I am going to completely re brand the book. A lot of the design work I created for this thing occurred when I barely knew anything at all about Photoshop or web design. So I want to help build an identity on this book. With my sketch is my first attempt at a new font for the logo. Let me know what you think. I expect that it's gonna take some time, but it should be fun. My plan this week is to draw the next eight pages and start plowing through the inks on the pages. I hope I can keep up the work ethic. And once I'm ready for the computer shading portion, I may be looking for some help with the flatting work. Anyone volunteers interested? Email me, and show some samples of your work.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Added Posts - The Unknowns Production Blog

I went in today and imported all of my posts from The Unknowns Production Blog, to this one. So if you want to read the history of project from a little further back, just click on a post with the tag "Unknowns" and you'll get all of my posts. Such as at the bottom of this post! Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Monster" - the Power of Suspense In Comics


Naoki Urasawa is one of Japan's all time great manga artists. The first real splash his works have had on the states is a series call "Monster." In its American incarnation, the series was dulled out of 18 volumes. I'm currently reading 14. As a writer who LOVES thrillers, Monster is the prime example of what good comics can do in this field.

This thing is epic. If you haven't read it or heard of it, I highly recommend that you do. Also, I found a pretty rockin documentary on the creator with English subtitles. Enjoy!









Tuesday, May 26, 2009

From Death Til Now Review

A special thanks to Neil Holden of the Cool Web Comic List Blog for his awesome review of "From Death Til Now." He made some pretty flattering comments about the George/Virgil dynamic. It was a special treat to read. I've been working on this book for awhile and I haven't had many reviews or interviews for the book, so it made my day. You can read the review here: http://www.coolwebcomiclist.blogspot.com/

In other news, I started plotting out more on the final two chapters of FDTN. I expect to have a fully written treatment of the last two chapters within a month and then it will just be a matter of thumbnailing and scripting those new pages. I've been tossing around the idea of switching the line work of FDTN to pencil drawings. I may test this. But my biggest concern is the look being too different from the previous pages. So I dunno. Pencil drawings are A LOT faster though. Maybe I'll post some exaples and we'll decide together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Feeling the burn...


Comics, comics, comics!!! That is the name of the game these couple of days off. I finished up a portrait this morning and now I'm working like the devil to finish up my work on "Kevin and The Golden Temple." I think more people on this super secret project are working at a much slower pace than me, lol, but I (as always) have to come up with a story that takes a bit more than a couple of pages. So I'm pretty much sprinting hoping I finish up on time since it looks like I will be drawing and painting close to twenty pages. It's good practice though as I am planning to start official work on The Unknowns graphic novel once this is done. And don't fret FDTN fans who may be reading this, I'm working on that too.



Since all of my wife and I's favorite TV shows are off for the summer, we decided that we would work on comics together instead or veg out. She's been helping flat pages and its been great fun to work together and spend that time being productive and just visiting. I'm so blessed to have a spouse who supports and desires the same things I do with life, work and family. With her by my side I feel like anything is possible. We're gonna make some awesome work together. :-)

I also decided this week, after much thought and prayer, that I need to really hone in a specific set of things that I care about and set as goals. My two favorite art subjects are comics and portraits. And for reasons more complicated than I will pretend to understand, I've spent the last two years kind of floundering between various things. Working on comics mostly, but leaving my painting in the dust. A lot of that had to do with the fact that galleries I was repped by closed and things slowed down. But I've missed my passionate pursuit of the portrait and I want to redicate myself to it. I have some plans forming. I'll share new examples as they come.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finally A Readable Draft


This past week I finally nailed down the first truly "readable"draft of "The Unknowns." It took four passes at it, but I think its finally in a state where I can bring others opinions in and receive feedback. I gotta tell you, it's quite gratifying to look at what I've finished and see it in printed form, sitting on a table.

My thoughts on this draft are that it is essentially the story I set to tell in the very beginning. It's both funny and scary, while feeling pretty endearing at the same time. It feels like quite a jump forward from my first pass at a finished script a few short years ago (thank you Stephen King). So, now I just have to get it into the hands of a few well trusted friends and my agent and we'll see where things go from there. I'm so tempted to get started on the actual comic, but my better judgment tells me to wait awhile.

For now, I have a story about a boy and a monster to tell, and portraits to finish.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Lost" Finale and "Kevin and Golden Temple"

Another year of "Lost" has come and gone. Only one more season remains. "Lost" is without a doubt my favorite show of all time. I first encountered it right before I got married about four years ago. At the time I didn't watch much TV at all (not a bad thing btw). Mostly because I was a senior in college and had little time to begin with. But I saw a trailer in the theater for it as it was coming out on DVD and I became intrigued. I bought the first season and watched all of it in about two weeks. The rest is history.

I constantly find myself being inspired by it at the end of every episode to work on my own stories and push my work further. The writing and production is so above the bar on every aspect that anyone who really gives it time can see this thing has changed storytelling in the TV format forever.

Last night's finale did what I was hoping for all year long, it brought in the element of mystery the rest of the season had been lacking for the whole year. Everything sort of shifted to a answer mode for the season and while that is what I think we were all hoping for, I enjoy the "wait what?" aspect of this show immensely. I don't know how this thing is gonna work next year. Well done gentlemen. Well done. Next year will be sad seeing it go off the air. Maybe afterward I'll get more done. At least "Fringe" is just starting.


The above is a quick sample of the short story I'm working on for an upcoming anthology called "Kevin and The Golden Temple." Can't reveal too much yet, but suffice it to say, it's going to be quite different than anything I've created yet and should really be fun. More on that as it approaches.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Memorial Park


Back in September of 2008, I participated in an art auction event benefiting the local Riverside Preservation Society here in Jacksonville. I was asked to complete an original painting depicting the monument in Memorial Park, which is one of the historical parks in the area. This monument was constructed to honor those lost in WW II. I used to live five minutes walking distance from the park and I've always wanted to do a painting of it. Above is my final painting.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Boldly Like A Story I Never Have Before


Admittedly I am a huge Star Wars fan. I first really discovered the films in my teenage years when I was introduced to the trading card game. And while the mythology and action of Star Wars had captivated my young mind, Star Trek didn't. I found it to be, well boring. It seemed far more interested, in its current carnations, to be caught up in political intrigue and other fair (sounds an awful lot like the Star Wars prequels).

Well, as of 7pm this evening, consider my heart changed. JJ Abrams and crew have pumped a new life into this classic story and left me suddenly feeling very much like a Star Trek fan. I wouldn't even mind watching some classic stuff now.

The first ten minutes of this film had me instantly locked in and I was game for wherever this ride was going to take me. The story was simple enough on its most basic of levels, but its bigger story line was quite complex and truly created a new Star Trek universe new fans could inhabit. Effectively it was a Crisis on Infinite Earths or an Onslaught Saga for the film world and we find ourselves looking at a brand new series in the making. One which I am ready and anxious to join. Check it out when you can. Even if its something you never would have liked.

"The Unknowns" Draft 2 Is Completed


Yesterday I finished up my second draft of my new graphic novel, "The Unknowns." It was really gratifying to finally print out a readable version of my script. I bound the whole thing up and set it on the coffee table, then sat back in gratification. :-) I'm tempted to dig into it and start editing it, but I'm taking a break from it to enjoy the moment and let the next piece of feedback come from my wife. She's my editor and sounding board, so I'm excited to hear her thoughts. I just wanted to take a moment to say... I'm excited!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Draft 1 is Complete

Last week I reached a penacle point. I finished the first draft of The Unknowns script. It clocked in at 63 pages in screenplay format. I sat down and read through the whole thing, and I gotta say I am pretty happy with it. It's the best thing I've written. Which may not be saying mucb really, lol. But it reads well and progresses the plot in a concise way that doesn't have much room for fat. My biggest concern is character development, but it feels like the bigger thing for this first book is introduce everyone to the story and setup the essential character elements that can be developed later. I'm planning on making this book around 6 volumes long so there's plenty of room for growth. I think I am gonna sit down and watch some early X-files episodes and other big number 1's to see how much character development was needed in those first installments.

Right now though my attention has turned to draft number two. This is pretty much all I will be doing until I have a publically readable draft that I can get feedback on, from those lucky few. There are a TON of corrections needed and a new scene I want to fit in. Anyways until the next draft... cheers!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Closing In On The End of Draft 1

Sorry for a lack of updates. Things have definitely been moving forward on The Unknowns. It seems we're getting very close to going to publishers with a proposal, so I am leaving that in the hands of my agent and taking any notes he has happily. But on things I can control to one degree or another, I am nearing the end of my first draft of "The Unknowns" book one. Working title at this time is "The Alpha." :-) I like it. We'll see if it sticks.

All things considered I've learned a great deal working on this script. Primarily the value of having a good treatment in place. I have breezed through this first draft because the treatment gave me such a good guide along the way. I simply could pull up the document and work scene from scene. All of the heavy lifting was done.

I'm gonna be putting in heavy duty hours into this project this week to try and finish the first full draft. I'm also considering combining this blog into my personal website http://www.michaeleregina.com/ I need to consolidate information. I've got too many sites I'm updating around here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Projects Coming To A Head

Many things are quietly going on in the background here with my art. Most of my bigger projects the moment are comics and book related. I wanted to get a short round off of the goings on. All of which are on their fast track to completion.

From Death Til Now:
This is my online graphic novel project that has been running on the web for nearly two years. I recently decided to take this project off the web for awhile so I can focus on finishing up the remaining 80 pages or so in a more streamlined manner. Hoping that within a year book 1 will be done. Read it online.

The Unknowns:
Currently this project has been getting the bulk of my efforts. Still in the writing phase, I am locking up the first draft here very soon. In the coming months, I am hoping we'll land a publisher. Check out the production blog.

Kevin and the Golden Temple:
A short story project for an upcoming anthology. Not much to say about this project at the moment. Stay tuned though as details emerge on the project.

The Adventures of Benjamin Franklin:
This is a children's book project my wife wrote some time back. She's been patiently waiting on me to finish up this project for her. I want to recommit myself to this effort. Samples are available in the illustration portion of the site.

Also, portrait commission projects continue to come my way. So the question really is. Will I sleep?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Website Launches!


Well, it only took me three years, but finally a new site is launched. I've added new galleries for my illustration and comics work. A new store section is going to be up and running real soon. I plan to use this blog section to share events and news that happen in the world of my art. I hope you all enjoy the new site and check back in from time to time to get news! Thanks for visiting.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Synposisesesesessss


A big step has pretty much concluded in the process of getting The Unknowns out there to the world. The past few weeks I have been writing and rewriting the synopsis for the book, in an attempt to get my story across in a concise way. I've had to write many things before in my life, but this sort of project is the one that just really is a challenge to me. I don't do well communicating what I mean without rambling on and on about it. Even with my stories, I tend to think I'm more Jules Verne than say H. G. Wells. Josh Ulrich likes to pick on me saying that its nearly impossible for me to tell a short story because I will create an epic from the material. So, attempting to widdle down a book series into a matter of two pages or so, was the works.

I managed to get it done though and that marked the culmination of the journey in looking for an agent. I'm happy to say I am partnering up with Brendan Deneen of FinePrint Literary to try and take this book to the masses. He's been extremely supportive of the concept for the book and helpful in aiding me into these uncharted waters (for me anyway). I really appreciate his patience with helping this project be successful.

So what to do now that we're kind of on to the next phase? Well, I plan to keep writing. I'm finding that a major part of the overall story may need some reworking. Its more of a change to when and how I give information about the characters than a ultimate change in direction. It's still pretty major though and could warrant some extensive rewrites. That's what first drafts are for!

The next few weeks I expect I'll spend some time getting some other obligations off my table. I have some websites I am redesigning for myself and businesses (my parent's restaurant haha). My personal website has not been redesigned in almost three years. That's too long. This needs a remedy.

The Unknowns production won't slow down though really. I'm still working through a ton of material and I even got the idea today for exactly how book 2 could start off. Progress is being made.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Books Every Writer Should Read

Sorry there haven't been many updates lately for those of you following this blog. A lot of things have been going on related to The Unknowns as well as other projects in general. The things involving The Unknowns I can't quite get into yet, but once things get more final I'll be sure to post them here.

One of things I wanted to get into here on the blog are some books that I think are really worth spending your time reading if you are a writer or a creative person. As a comic book artist I spend most of my time thinking in words and pictures. In a way its a cheap form of writing because I don't have to think about the formal nature of writing story in prose or script format. This is something I am working to remedy. I truly want to be known as a better writer/storyteller than I do an artist and as such I need to learn the craft more. Here are some books that have been really helpful over the years and currently:



Orson Scott Card's book "Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy" is one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of writing. In it he explains how we can create believable and tangible worlds. Some of his stories about how he created a new story have helped spur me on to new ideas.


"The Man Who Heard Voices" is more here because of its attention to the way so many of us all feel as we create the art that is in us as visual storytellers. Regardless of your thoughts towards M. Night's movies (I for one think he's pretty much amazing) I think everyone can find this book to be a reminder that even those who are successful at their craft wrestle behind closed doors.


"On Writing" by Stephen King is pretty much the mother load when it comes to a book that is profoundly helpful and entertaining. Part memoir and part how-to, this book deals with topics as mundane as grammar to how to discover a story. This one is my current read, but it is one that I think has done more to help my work ethic than any other book as I remember: to be a great writer you must; read a lot a write a lot.