HWA snow scene v3 animatic

V3 animatic of a scene from Here We Are, created in Clip Studio Paint.

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November 2020 was spent on HWA chapter 12, December 2020 was spent on roaches and Matchy Snatchy with Bea, so this entry mainly details the labour that I spent in January 2021 on the next pass of HWA snow scene (see V1 and V2). Everything is still quite janky, but it's starting to come together. I'm cartoon Grinch smirking...

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows some people in the foreground, wearing graduation garb. In the mid-ground, an original character is tugging on his graduation gown hood with his left arm, while looking towards the left of the screen. It is snowing.

IDK the formal term for these animation passes, but I call v3 "the more refined" pencil pass with details and whatnots:

  • solid bodies and key poses - mostly done
  • timing - had to space things out because some motions/actions were moving too fast/compressed
  • clothing - barely roughed in, needs refinement; I don't even know how to draw clothing in static, let alone in motion...
  • hair - didn't pay attention, needs refinement
  • inbetween frames - added a lot more, but still needs refinement
  • sound/music - just plunked in, not leveled at all

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a character walking towards the right-hand side of the screen, reaching his arm out to another character on the right-side. There are other people in graduation gowns in the background, as well as trees.

The bane of my existence is the graduation cap. All hats have mystery perspective and foreshortening that defies my logic and I can't visualize it in my head at all. Why Austin, do you have so many hats? I cut out a square piece of cardboard from a cereal box for reference, but it's something I have to revisit again in v4.

Animation seems like one of those things that you can endlessly futz with forever; the more you do it, the more you realize how much work is left to be done. For those who know how I draw (at least for my personal work), I'm not a person who tends to iterate very much at all, so drawing the same thing over and over again (animation) is counter to every fibre in my body. I believe myself to be quite silly for doing this project given how much work there is to be done, but now I'm committed...as to not let the contributors down, hahaha.

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a graduation gown-wearing character with black hair in a low bun, walking from right to left, across the screen.

Seeing my characters "come alive" is pretty interesting! There's another level of visual storytelling/communication around the nuances of how characters move. A while back, Bea told me about Laban movement analysis. She thought that Austin would move more steady and gracefully (like a bear), while Jake was a bit more jittery (like a squirrel), so I tried to incorporate those aspects into how they appear on screen. I will say that this scene requires everyone to be a bit awkward and lacking confidence, so nobody is moving quite like their normal selves here.

Another thing that was interesting was trying to time mouth movements to audio speech. At some point I drew the mouths in more visually obvious ways, but when it played in animation it looked like a joke HAHA...like weird unnatural mouth movements where you're trying to purse your lips too hard! It was hilariously BAD! I still have some more work to do here.

Screenshot of the Clip Studio Paint timeline window, which shows audio tracks with "labels" associated with them to help with timing along key frames

I'm grateful for some of these "labeling" features in the CSP timeline that roughly give me a sense of where words are landing. Geez, CSP is really incredible. I want to reiterate that I love Bradley and Eddy's voices for the characters! Bradley really nailed the warm and more mature sound for Austin. He did a different voice for Fung in my game, Come for a Drink, who was more arrogant and sarcastic (well, at least that's my perception), so it was neat to hear the differences. Eddy played the awkward vulnerability of Jake so well—I was feeling second hand embarrassment at how his lines were delivered (appropriately). The whispered curse at the end—!! Hearing their different takes was wonderful and they're both a pleasure to work with.

screenshot of pencil sketch of some rough animation frames, with a few steps of onion skinning on (previous frames are in red, following frames are in green lines). The drawing itself shows a character with hi back facing the viewer, progressively turning towards his left side to face the camera. in the background, there are trees and snow.

After I blew the scope of this animation between V1 and V2, I realized I needed an entirely different piece of music than the one I originally commissioned from Nos (for a different scene). I asked some musical friends what kind of instruments reminded them of snow: plucked strings, Kalimba, wooden xylophones, etc.! Then PowersWithin took those as inspiration (as well as the previous piece by Nos) and composed a snowy song that is perfect!

Now that I've used Reuben Lara's CSP animation tutorial tips and shortcuts earnestly, I can say that they're all AMAZING for workflow efficiency. Programming my tablet's buttons to have back/forward movement between keyframes? YES! Auto-numerating keyframes? YES! AND there's so much more!!!

Hopefully I'll be able to make more progress before my life is consumed by playing Yakuza 3-6 on PC, starting January 28...

Today's music post: Susumu Yokota's - A1. Zenmai from the album Acid Mt. Fuji (remastered).

Planner and paper tasting kick-off for 2021

Midori MD planner and NTU notebook

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I talked about this in passing in my analogue daily journal post, but I added a few more things to round out the system, after using the other journal/planner combo for a few months.

Planner: Midori MD Notebook Light, A5, grid ruling

Midori MD Notebook light (grid) serves as the planner for the year, with monthly view spreads. I've put it inside an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket. There's 1 spread for the year, then 13 spreads for each month (Jan-Dec 2021 + Jan 2022). I drew a different little plant icon on the corner of every monthly spread.

Photo collage of 2 notebooks on a grey desk. The left-hand notebook is a Midori MD Light Note book in A5 size with grid ruling. It is slipped into an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket that has an integrated zipper pocket. The jacket is light tealed in colour, with dark brown cartoon animals printed on the front. Collage mainly shows the hand-drawn yearly and monthly calendar interiors of the Midori MD notebook, which I'm using as a planner. The right-hand notebook is a brown kraft covered one from NTU.

I added a few pages for projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

Photo collage showing the interior spreads of the Midori MD Notebook planner with grid ruling Spreads shown include- projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

I'm doing fountain pen "paper tasting" for 2021, meaning I'm going to journal in separate and different lower-page count notebooks, every 2 months or so. The first one to go is...

Journal: NTU Press Bookstore 臺大出版中心校史館書店 notebook, A5, no ruling

The National Taiwanese University Press Bookstore (Pinkoi storefront) has branded stationery, including fountain pens, notebooks, and more. This also includes the Taiwanese-designed Take a Note planner that uses Tomoe River 68gsm paper that I've only seen places like Shigure Inks stock in North America. The planner design won a Good Design award in 2017.

I got some of their basic sewn brown kraft notebooks that were marketed as being suitable for fountain pens.

Photo of 2 brown kraft paper notebooks with NTU (National Taiwan University) branding on the front cover. Covers are plain and minimal, other than the University's name printed in small font on the covers.

Pages are blank/unruled, 米道林(楓林紙) 100gsm paper, 64 pages total. The paper isn't white, more like a cream stock (comparable to the colour of midori MD, perhaps a tad lighter).

Photo collage of fountain pen ink tests on an interior page of the NTU cover. The left-image shows consecutive rows of handwriting, done in different coloured inks. The right-image shows the back-side of the page that was written to, to show that there is minmal ink bleedthrough (only when there was flex nib used, or certain inks used)

Most of my inks did fine on the paper. The ones that feathered and bled were Sailor Kobe Kounan Maroon, Platinum Carbon Black, and J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor. FPR Royal Flush Blue was also a bit more prone to feathering, but not in a significant way (to me).

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting, using flex nib/applying pressure on the nib.

Pushing down on the nib with "flex" also caused the ink to selectively feather and bleed through on some other inks.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Compared to Midori MD and Tomoe River, shading on this paper feels slightly flatter for some inks. There is practically no pink sheen in FPR Royal Flush Blue here, and Lamy Turmaline shows very minor pink/purple sheen. Overall I find that inks appear brighter/lighter in appearance, much like they would on regular printer paper.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Overall, I think it's a solid performer! Dry time seems good too, at least good enough that I don't even think about it.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

I bought some cute illustrated and perforated calendar sheets that I can paste into my journal. I might try to experiment with a bit more collage for this journal. Sometimes when the paper is expensive and optimized for FP ink I feel like I have to maximize all surface area for the ink, and not paste anything into it.

Photo collage of a dark brown leather traveler's style notebook in A5 size, which serves to hold the 2 notebooks mentioned in this post, together. The photo also shows a few fountain pens, a roll of dot-washi-tape stickers, and perforated date rectangles.

I also have this daily chinese calendar for FUN. I'm into this aesthetic sometimes; I was close to getting a chinese almanac, Tung Shing/通勝 for the year too. I wouldn't say that I'm particular about fengshui, astrology, or auspicious dates, but I wish I knew how to read the bottom part.

Photo of a traditional looking one-page-a-day chinese calendar, bound at the top with screws.

Today's music post: A compilation of Jane Zhang's (张靓颖) cover/rearrangement performances from the TV show Sound of my Dream (梦想的声音).

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2020 was a strangely garbage year, but let's not forget the things that we were able to achieve and our resilience during these hard times! If you are reading this, hope you have a happy new year!

Positives

  • Read a lot of books and increased my knowledge
  • Finished Here We Are book 1!!!!!! MY FIRST BIG SOLO BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!! So many sweat and tears hahaha
  • Finished BL Tease. Big heartfelt thanks to Linda for leading and Maguro for bringing it to physical life. This is on top of their existing excellent design work and story/comic contributions. I am truly privileged to have such great collaborators!
  • Helped a friend bring her baby/parent book to life :)
  • Lived on an island and worked with a slew of strangers for a couple of months
  • I can (but barely) lift my cast iron pan with one arm
  • Starting exercising routinely in September...then exercised daily since October (though this is both positive and negative as I still don't particularly enjoy this HAHA)
  • Published freetalk posts every week since the summer! This was not my intention, but I'm glad I did it, even just for practice. I noticed that I have to do a lot of editing for these posts to be coherent. I tend to insert a lot of extraneous words, adjectives, and phrases: I think, perhaps, maybe, just etc. Good self awareness.
  • Drew 31 tamagotchi for tamagoctober. I put my tamagotchi on pause afterwards because it was a lot of work.
  • Did a bunch of updates and upcycling with existing materials (apron, tshirt, tarp, etc.)
  • Tried out ink marbling/suminagashi
  • Made a cute and fun card game with ittybeatty in December 2020! Concurrently, we learned how to the use Affinity suite to do all the illustrations and design (weaning ourselves off of Ad0be...)
  • Started working on HWAnimation (though there is still much to be done)
  • Getting suspended from birdsite even though I didn't post anything HAHA
  • Began HWA arc 2 with chapter 12
  • Organized and hosted many boardgame arena sessions to stay connected with people
  • Got more fountain pens and I think I'm done...I have a good lineup!!!!!
  • Convinced more people to play Yakuza and fall in love with Majima Goro
  • Made a solid switch over to non-g00gle things for everything that I need
  • I drew this very good raccoon plush
  • Donated $ to a good handful of organizations!

Photo of comic thumbnails and finished comic pages, featuring Sabina from Here We Are

Memorable moment of 2020

I was on a Jackbox games group call, playing Fibbage: Enough About You, which is a game where you answer questions about yourself. Other players can add their own responses to the same questions, based on what they think you'd respond. One of the questions was something along the lines of

If Dirchansky had a Ph D in a topic, it would be in [fill in the blank]...

The false answer that was chosen the most by other players was old man yaoi hahahahahaha...is this the reputation that I have among the youth?!

Negatives

  • Travel and vacation plans destroyed
  • Couldn't really enjoy life because of various-stages-of-lockdown
  • Cockroaches appearing inside my apartment during lockdown WOOOOO (still going through chemical warfare)
  • Accumulated more plastic and waste because of lockdown (take-out, groceries, etc.)

Reflection

On December 31st, 2020, Koyama Press is closing down. They've been a mainstay in the Canadian comics/indie publishing scene, and I've been personally blessed by both Annie and Helen's generosity throughout my comics-life in Toronto. We officially got to get to know them because we travelled to Kaigai Manga Festival (2012) and exhibited next to them in our little Canadian Comics TCAF corner. Since then, they've come to Love Love Hill's table at TCAF to chat and grab our newest releases and treated us to all sorts of wonders (meals, snacks, drinks, karaoke, stationery, reference books, etc.). There are countless other stories like this from other creators over at Quill and Quire's article about Koyama Press. Most of all, they were absolutely unconditionally supportive—they made you feel supported, seen, and respected. When you're too shy to reach out, they'll find you and drop some love bombs on you. I'll miss them, wish them the best, hope they get some downtime/relax time, because I know they've worked incredibly hard for our community. Koyama Press's existing books will continue to be available, while stock remains, at your local bookstores!

As I've been getting older, with less brain and physical capacity to do things, I'm taking a long hard look at where I should be spending my time and efforts.

I've been quite successful in de-coupling my self-worth from what I produced (in a quantity, artistic sense). Visual arts and comics have been part of my identity and being for over 20 years. I've funneled most of my time, energy, and money into art/comics as a "hobby". Do people usually exert this much money and labour into a hobby that brings them a mixture of positive self-improvement, pain, stress...?! What return on effort/investment am I looking for? What's in it for me? What am I hustling for? What/when is enough? I wonder whether I should continue to be a content creator, and if so, how and what kind?

Should I continue to share my work? If people aren't going to see it, why do I even have social media or a website? I don't know the answer to that right now. For a long time, I hoped to be able to help grow a community, but the horrible data privacy practices of major social media and chat sites pushed me away. I like to help others, I like to be kind to others, and I like to use whatever limited/meager resources and voice that I have, to uplift others. I don't want to be on those platforms and I wouldn't want people I care for, to be on those exploitative platforms either (e.g., read this article by RainyLune on IG's algorithm.

Maybe someday, I can be as selflessly generous as Annie Koyama.

Things to look forward to in 2021

  • New planner: I'm particularly excited to have a calendar that starts on SUNDAYS again (instead of MONDAYS; I'm not used to it)
  • Paper tasting: trying out a lot of notebooks (I bought a handful of lower page count notebooks to try out throughout the year)
  • Playing Yakuza 3-7 on PC; goodbye life
  • Continuing to evolve and to improve myself and the community (e.g., be more understanding and forgiving)
  • Release at least one HWAnimation video, if only to showcase the people that contributed their skill and efforts to the project
  • Maybe vaccines will be deployed to people who need it and there will be a gradual shift to a new normal?
  • Becoming more unknown and more obsolete, or finding some more ethical/reasonable ways to put myself out

In the meantime, I'm counting down the days to meet my favourite fictional man again in the new year...

photo of a notebook spread, featuring hastily drawn sketches of Majima Goro from Yakuza

Today's music post: Moonchild's Cure from their Voyager album.

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It's Sabina's (HWA) birthday today!

A collage of two side-by-side images. The left image shows an inked drawing of an original character looking somewhat surprised while holding a an open notebook with her left hand. The character has wavy hair and is wearing a hooded coat and backpack. The right image is the same as the left, but coloured in with grey watercolour tones.

I often chat with Benjamin Rivers who is a comic artist and game maker! He has a new comic continuation of one of his games, Worse Than Death.

We got into the topic of real g-nibs and art supplies, which led to us talking about how hearing the feedback of a real nib on paper can be a form of ASMR. I got fountain pens so I didn't have to constantly re-dip into ink. A video of the drawing and inking portion (not the painting portion haha) is below.

Materials:

  • Paper - not sure, probably Canson or Strathmore watercolour paper
  • Mechanical pencil - Kurutoga 0.5mm
  • Fountain pen - Platinum carbon black desk pen (with Platinum carbon black ink)
  • Brush pen - Pentel pocket brush
  • Eraser - Unknown...
  • Watercolour - some mystery mix of brown and blues...

Today's music post: Agua De Rosa - Rooftop Mix by Angelica Garcia & Sinego

November and December 2020 media round up

What I read during November and December 2020

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They said this would be fun by Eternity Martis

This is an unfiltered memoir about Eternity's 4 years attending Western university (a predominantly white campus) as a racialized person. I must admit that my own university experience was extremely uneventuful compared to hers. I was and continue to be a non-drinker, non-party-er, and non-social person!! I found myself wanting to pull her outta all the toxic situations she found herself in, and that she eventually finds more opportunities to stay true to herself, and love herself more.


Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong

This was some much needed-reading on my part because I am soooooooooo unknowing about disability-related experiences. The format of the book is short writings/essays/stories by different authors, organized in loose themes. I appreciated how intersectional the book was through its inclusion of a wide variety of stories and writers from different backgrounds. I am grateful to this book for introducing me to more voices, and so much more...it's just the tip of the iceberg, re: how much I need to learn.


Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I first saw this book because it was recommended on Wonderpens...but honestly had no real idea about what it was about and just added it to my HOLDS in my library account. There was a 8+ week hold, due to its popularity. As a plant lover and a (former?) scientist, I was pleased to find out that there is a big plant component to the book! You can really feel the author's passion and respect for all things living: the descriptions of her experiences and relationship and JOY that she feels when she is in the moment, observing and respecting nature. I also like the critique of English language and science, and how it others humans from all other living things, which is fundamentally different from how many Indigenous cultures associate with the world. She also wrote about her struggles to reconcile the feelings of gratitude/reciprocation and science/traditional ways of thinking and living. I thought that it offered a fairly clear viewpoint about our paths forward: we've done a lot of damage, and merely stopping the damaging isn't going to help; we have to work on restoring our relationship with mother earth. I will think hard about my gifts, and how I can reciprocate back to nature.

The book felt long to read; I think this is driven by the fact that (a) my book was almost overdue and I was in a mad scramble near the end, and (b) the author finishes her chapters with extremely eloquent closure/lessons statements, so it gave me the false impression MULTIPLE TIMES that I was done reading/the book was over (I'm reading an ebook copy from the library), but NOPE there was still more to go! I'm grateful that I had time to really think deeply about what I read in this book.


Today's music post: Inuugannuk by Terry Uyarak.

JAnniversary

4-panel gag comics featuring Jake and Austin from Here We Are

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December 20 is a special day for Here We Are!!

In personal celebration of this day, I have prepared some poorly drawn, wholesome, and extremely cheesy 4-panel comics!!!

There are spoilers for anything post-chapter 11.

Two 4-panel comic strips, featuring characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic. First strip is titled "Naturally Romantic" and shows Jake being embarrassed by "sweet" things that Austin says. Second strip is titled "Intimacy Anxiety" and shows Jake spiralling into anxiety about how to reciprocate affection.

Two 4-panel comic strips, featuring characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic. First strip is titled "Competitive Romance I" and shows Jake getting fired up to learn how to be romantic. He looked up tips on the internet and settles on buying matching heart-shaped lucky bamboo plants for himself and Austin. Second strip is titled "Competitive Romance II" and shows Jake visiting Austin's place and asking Austin about how the lucky bamboo plant is doing. Austin's lucky bamboo plant is thriving, which Jake attributes to the fact that Austin is a tree nerd. Austin goes on a wiki-fact-style-barrage, which reminds Jake about how Austin is a huge nerd. Austin tells Jake that the plant is taken EXTRA good care of because it's a gift from Jake.

Two 4-panel comic strips, featuring characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic. First strip is titled "Competitive Romance III" and shows Jake trying to write a letter to Austin. The letter begins as "Hi Austin, You're a nice guy. You have nice eyelashes." Jake promptly realizes that he is an idiot for even trying. Second strip is titled "Competitive Romance IV" and shows Jake reading a tip about how to smile and look into a partner's eyes. He feels NOT confident about trying this, as his lip twitches uncomfortably the next time he is around Austin. Austin notices Jake staring and him, lip quivering, and wonders if Jake is hungry. Jake feels his failure deeply.

Two 4-panel comic strips, featuring characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic. First strip is titled "Competitive Romance V" and shows Jake giving up on trying to beat Austin at romance, because Austin's charisma stat is too high level. He slumps over Austin in defeat, leading to Austin feeling very charmed. Second strip is titled "Raccoon" and shows Austin asking Jake about a plush raccoon in Jake's apartment. Jake tells Austin about the childhood plush, and Austin (in his own skewed vision) things that they (Jake and the raccoon) are equally cute, fiesty, vulnerable, and hungry looking. Austin is charmed by this pairing/revelation and hugs them both.

These two are so helplessly uncool...but I clearly love them...but this time, the raccoon has stolen my heart.

Today's music post: Paradise (Stay Forever) by Barry "Epoch" Topping from the Paradise Killer soundtrack.