HWA anniversary!

Here We Are (HWA) webcomic 3rd anniversary

For those who celebrate it, happy holidays. I don't celebrate Xmas, but enjoy the quiet weeks when everyone else is winding down for the year.

Instead I'm celebrating Here We Are's anniversary! I started posting it Dec 2018, so that makes it 3 years...but I haven't posted in a whole year already, haha (shhh, I'll get there). I haven't drawn any "serious" colour illustrations for this series, so I set out to do that as a form of celebration/commemoration. I quickly regretted it, but I forced myself to keep going.

I present to you, the fake comic cover anniversary edition of this image. Took me a while to figure out what to do with the negative space. Digital illustration of Austin (reading a book) and Jake (playing a handheld console game) hanging out in a corner of Jake's apartment. They're sitting on pillows and a fluffy carpet. The text on the image says 'here we are' and 'dirchansky'.

Historically I'm very bad at using pose reference, but this time I went and used ALL THE REFERENCE. Enjoy this strange walk-through. One day I will learn how to use those 3d models in CSP, but not this time...instead I used these two creepers. They're posable figures, around 6" tall (1/12 scale).

Photo of 2 miniature posable models/figures, posed in a seated position, leaning their backs against some boxes.

I already had Jake's room built in roomstyler, so that became the starting point for the room/lighting reference.

3d render of a room, with a window on the back wall and a shelf on the right side. The flooring is wood plank laminate.

I drew over the pose photo reference, making adjustments where needed. The models have no softness or slack to their joints, extra weird spacing and sockets, so their poses inherently look stiffer.

Digital sketch of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment.

I took additional photo ref for Austin's hand. It's kind of weird book hold, where the pinky and thumb are holding the book open. I've never formally read this book, but I received training from the author's organization before, haha. It's The Coaching Habit.

I'm not adept at choosing harmonious colours, so I usually select haphazardly (left) and then use a colour layer to adjust (right). In this case I used a light blue layer on top of all the flats at "soft light" layer effect, but other times I've used other layer effects (like multiply) or changed the opacity instead.

Digital screenshot comparison of flat colours. Left shows unaltered selection of colours by artist, right shows modified colours with a blue tint to them.

This results in flats with a bit of a cooler/blue tone to them. The books are Around the Bend, Cook and Cry, and a made up book called Saving Pando, which is on brand for Austin.

Digital drawing of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment, with flat colours shown.

Since the flats had a cool tone, I assumed I'd want a warmer highlight and a cooler shadow. More recently, I've been painting the light/shading separately so I have flexibility to futz with the colours whenever I want. Generally I have layers for light, shadow, and then reflected light.

I love high contrast (that's why I mainly work in B/W), but when applied to shading, the result is that sometimes the image (if going for, more naturalistic lighting) can become too harsh. This KIND OF happened here, but trust me, I already dialed back how harsh the lighting was...it was...like a bright turquoise before HAHA.

I applying shades in harsh shapes, then use the blend tool in CSP to taper the colour out, where (seemingly) appropriate. My shadow layers, mostly blue, on layers set to 'multiple'.

Digital drawing of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment, with blue shading/shadows shown.

The lighting and reflected light are mostly orange. Yes, I abused layer effects 'colour dodge' and various others.

Digital drawing of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment, with blue shading/shadows and warm highlights shown.

When I turn the flats back on it turns into this.

Digital drawing of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment.

I'm really into DoF and lens blur, so I wanted to apply that to this image. I drew the plants on a separate layer so I could do this. I exported the flat image into Affinity Photo to use their DoF filter and auto-level/colour/contrast. It looks like the colours were changed to be slighty warmer.

I ended up cropping most of the image off (haha) but here's the uncropped version.

Digital drawing of two men hanging out in a corner of an apartment.

Just applied to exhibit one final year IRL at Toronto Comic Arts Festival/TCAF 2022. Applications are open until Feb 7 2022 and there are spots for in-person (Toronto) and/or online. I promised to make some pretty weird comics to make my application more TASTY. Good luck to everyone who applies!

Today's music post: Smokin Out The Window by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic. I'm linking the video because there's a part where Anderson .Paak falls to the ground dramatically (~1:36) and lies there while Bruno Mars takes over, and it is chef's kiss, on top of the cheesy retro fade in/out overlays.

HWA was moved

TFW you get really obsessed redoing/updating a website.

Cover Image

I moved HWA to its own subdomain and HARDCODED most of the website!!! Added captions/alt text for chapter 11 extras and 12. Originally it was hosted under the Kirby CMS, but now it's its own monster.

Please judge me for embedding style code directly in-line HTML because I couldn't figure out how to do things otherwise!

Because of the move, the old RSS link won't work anymore, so you'll have to update it or just follow this blog/me on masto since I will note when I update the comic. It has been over a year HAHA. I also have to update my RSS feed manually. Was any of this a good idea? Probably not? But I do feel free from mysterious too-automated things, like CSS inheritance nightmares, subpar thumbnail generation, etc. Sometimes it's easier for me to manually do things myself to get it closer to my ~vision~.

Now my code definitely doesn't have 3rd party trackers. Fun! I used a responsive HTML template from W3. I had to dig back into the depths of my not-very-good-to-begin-with-PHP knowledge (good ol if/else statements) to make the pagination slightly more automated, but it is not fool proof as one would hope (for now).

Screenshot of possum favicon for Here We Are webcomic site

The most exciting part is that I made a new possum favicon!!! I also added character mini bios, links, and other blatherings.

Screenshot of draft mini bios currently on the Here We Are webcomic site


At some point I want to rejig my main domain hero images too. It's hard to decide what to promote...please look at everything and don't look at everything. So much effort/time has gone into some of these projects...

Other musings:

  • As if it wasn't clear, I'm into the Indieweb movement (without knowing this label existed). Along the same vein, I'm also into indie print, small press, and zines. Smaller communities...
  • There are also cool places like neocities that exist now, to host your website. I heard neocities was also OK with NSFW. I looked at their TOS and it seems like there isn't anything outright banning adult content.
  • A friend of mine noted that friendships are often based on mutual dislike rather than mutual like. True or false?!
  • A wire previously cemented onto my teeth un-cemented itself so now I have to spend more $ (sad).
  • I'm working through some dialogue and had trouble tackling the words through pen/paper. It's a somewhat vulnerable moment for the character, so I pretended I was them and began saying phrases out loud instead of writing them. I ended up crying as I spoke, like unintentionally tapping into my own empathy. Is it a good or bad thing...? It was a surprise...
  • The peertube instance I was on is closing down, so I had to figure out what to do with the HWAnimations. I converted the old animatics to gifs for now. All I can see are the parts that could be improved and smoother, but the thought of cracking these files open again is too scary. I was absolutely bananas to have made this thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please share it and the web comic, if you want!!

Today's music post: Leaf High by Priya Ragu. Also love this live performance of Lockdown on BBC Music.

Collage of three inked pages from Here We Are chapter 13's webcomic. Panels/pages show a young woman exploring a new city.

I put HWA aside to do heads down research and writing work. I did start inking some of the initial pages for ch.13 (above), but there's still a lot of work to be done. I might split the chapter to be shorter to leave it more cliffhanger-y and more feasible for me to finish in December. My 2022 work schedule was nearly a blank slate a week ago, but now more inquiries are coming in?!??

Other musings:

  • I infrequently tout myself out as an illustrator, although the pattern is that my more interesting illo work was/is produced for other people—however, more often than not, it's not widely published (because of confidentiality, ownership transfer, etc.) or under some other name, haha. I really enjoy the magic that happens through bringing another person's idea to life, and being pushed to explore ideas/visuals that are beyond what I'd do on my own accord.
  • My post frequency here is roughly once a week, which seems to be exceeding my post frequency on Masto, which then makes me wonder what platform I should be using...
  • There's an upcoming comic about a yakuza member getting magical girl powers, drawn in 80s style...and I bet it's a going to be amazing. Dream Drunkers - Yakuza to mahou no tsue by Saito Banjo.
  • There's also a comic about a yakuza member who loves kpop boyband idol. Yakuza no Oshigoto by Yatsuda Teki.
  • I am sorry to my upcoming collaborator who will have to do the hard labour of drawing mechanical/technical/crowd scenes, while I simply type "buildling" or "cameras" or "crowd".
  • Genius Aranzi Aronzo Usotsuki and Warumono glove designs...
  • Come For a Drink was added to a bunch of game / visual novel databases by other people. I am impressed that someone went through the trouble of tagging character traits, including ones that I didn't know about, like hosome 細目, which means narrow eyes. Interesting to see how others label what you've created.

Today's music post: Heart of Gold (anniversary version) by Mario Jose.

My dear friend Victor was pressured into weight-reduction surgery by their parents at a young age, and the surgery needs to be reversed because of all the complications! If you have the means to, please donate or share (and/or hire them!).

I started working on HWA comic in earnest again. It doesn't feel like I left it alone for so long in terms of...mind space. I was working on the book, animation, strip comics, research/plotting/writing, thumbnailing, mirroring, etc.—but sometimes it can look like unproductivity, even though most of the work is invisible and behind the scenes.

Panel layouts for ch. 13. At this point I'm looking at flow across a page (and vertical scroll reading for online), across a spread (for print), and across all pages in this chapter. I tend to prioritize function and clarity over everything else.

Screenshot of several zoomed-out comic pages (from Clip Studio Paint) that show panel borders and placeholder text location.

Rough drawing for ch. 13. This is a technically difficult chapter for me to draw because there are a lot of buildings and perspective, but hopefully when I get to refining it all, it won't look too bad...? At this stage I also try to figure out speech bubble placement and where I can trim excess dialogue. There are some points where I'll change the size/bleed of certain drawings/panels as I go along.

Screenshot of the clip studio paint EX interface, showing 24 pages of comic page thumbnails.

I post WIP with #HWAcomic on masto. Maybe at the end of 2022(?) I can put out the next book of HWA, but the stories/characters are living their own plots/lives, so we shall see.

I've been working on a bunch of things—much of which I can't share or am choosing to not share broadly (e.g., drawing training). Always have ideas percolating. Some recent viz dev:

Digital sketch of an original character named Ian, in various poses and expressions

Digital sketch of an original character named Fanta, in various poses and expressions

Digital sketch of various police-inspired outfits

Suits...yes...! I have complex feelings about these very very old (aka created decades ago) characters, primarily because of on-going discussion about abolishing such roles in communities and society. There was/is definitely a lot of harm done by such institutions and people in positions of power. I'm still figuring out how to best release them into the story-world, though it will never be good or perfect (nor is it intended to be).

I suppose you have to be somewhat obsessed with your own characters/stories/comic to have the perseverance to bring them to life. Nicknames I have for HWA characters—you can guess who is who:

  • Crybaby jock
  • Sunshine plantboy
  • Pokerface princess
  • Masked joker
  • Horse girl
  • Quiet giant
  • Unapologetic realness
  • Sad man
  • Cool mom

Other updates:

  • My building finally switched from central AC to central heating this week, so I don't have to have cold hands from drawing.
  • I was going to move away from this city at the end of the year, but decided to stick around for one more year...
  • The roaches are back (barf), right after I signed another yearly lease!
  • I switched to doing 7 min exercise everyday (almost) and having 2 meals a day (intermittent fasting) to see how things would go. My body got used to only eating 2 meals a day pretty quickly. I try to eat lunch around noon, dinner finish before 9pm, so that's ~15h of fasting). For me it's a bit of a time and money saving value-add. One less meal to prepare/worry about!
  • IDK why I have so many exercise-loving characters. Exercise is quite torturous (though I suppose comics are too). After a year of nearly daily MINIMAL EFFORT exercise, I can still say that no part of me loves doing it. It remains a chore, a necessary evil to do the bare minimum to maintain this aging, broken body of mine.
  • I have been quieting updating various parts of my website and character profiles.
  • Easing my way back into participating in some form of online project or community; though not on discord, IG, nor birdsite. I can't...
  • Every time I see an article about N / F / T/ s it makes me want to scream because there are so many better/other ways to either support the artist and/or have something bespoke made for you, that doesn't have all the other impacts of N / F / T / s. There's suggestion for creative artists to put clauses against N / F / T / s in your contracts.
  • The greatest tragedy of not having numpad is not being able to use the shortcut to create an emdash, so I have to copy paste it from somewhere else, every time.
  • I've been listening to music from my youth. Anime OSTs from 90s—Akira Senju x B't X, Taku Iwasaki x Rurouni Kenshin OVA, Yoko Kanno x Escaflowne, etc. Gackt's Mars album. All those Slayers character vocal CDs. Dang, it's all so good.
  • Hope to get Yakuzine out early 2022. I have to do more thinking/studying.
  • It's Life on the Hill's 1st issue's 10th anniversary. Wow, so old! 10 years ago me is very different. I see some of my stories in LOTH and feel some cringe, but it was an accurate representation of me at the time. I'll continue to evolve, hopefully for the better.
  • Maybe in 2023, I'll work on the next bit of HWAnimation and/or this strange new prototype visual novel. Wai told me to make the camel for real, and I probably will. The weird dialogue is written by specific people, and the characters were designed based on what the specific people asked for. It's like...a crowdsourced-ish project (?).

Screenshot of a prototype of a visual novel. This screenshot shows a character named Oliver on the left of the screen, saying \"H-hello camel! Ur lips r so plump it's like a bouncy castle\" to a background photo of a camel (placeholder). Oliver has chin-shoulder length, middle parted blonde hair, blue eyes, and wears an oversized white collared shirt over pleated black pants. He has a shy and young demeanour. Screenshot of a prototype of a visual novel. This screenshot shows a character named Sam on the left of the screen, saying \"If I could dream at all, it would be about you and I'm not ashamed of it. Choose me, Camel.\" to a background photo of a camel (placeholder). Sam is wearing a blue ring-necked henley with contrasting piping underneath a check-line white/gray casual blazer and light blue pants. He has a confident and straightforward demeanour. Screenshot of a prototype of a visual novel. This screenshot shows a character named Bo on the left of the screen, saying \"It's your choice. I won't force you to pick me.\" to a background photo of a camel (placeholder). Bo has a close shaved haircut a scar across his left eyebrow/forehead/scalp, and glasses. He wears a rainbow patterned crewneck sweatshirt with a cat on it over a pink patterened undershirt and black pants. He has a pokerface.

Today's music post: my genius pixitracker-made, possum-inspired song, Sneak and Snack.

Austin's birthday

Silly comics and sketches featuring Austin and Jake from Here We Are.

Cover Image

September 24 was Austin's birthday (from Here We Are). I didn't do much for Jake's birthday due to my busyness, so I figured I'd finally draw some of these side stories that have been floating around in my notebook. These comics are best read after arc 1/ch.1-11 + extra. Even better if you've read the printed/digital copies' exclusive extras.

Black and white, 4-panel comics featuring original characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic by Dirchansky. 
===Strip 1: Flavours of Jake (via Austin)===
This strip shows the different Jake "looks" that Austin likes. 
Panel 1 "great" shows the default Jake in glasses and tshirt. 
Panel 2 "so cute <3" shows Jake sleeping next to Wacou. 
Panel 3 "too hot" shows Jake in low v-neck tshirt. 
Panel 4 "swoon" shows Jake in the loggersports uniform.
===Strip 2: Jealousy (I)===
This strip shows a conversation between Austin and Jake about the Pride parade. The dialogue is as follows: 
Austin- The pride parade is today! I've never been before. Want to come with me?
Jake- Oh! Sorry I already have plans. Uh-the parade...it's like...super crowded and hot outside...usually...!! ...you should just stay home instead.
Austin- That's too bad, are you free later tonight? Dinner?
Jake- Yea, prob. I gotta go. I'll text you later.
Austin-See you soon!
[Scene change: Austin is in a crowd outside]
Austin (thoughts) - I ended up coming out. It is pretty crowded, but everyone seems happy! I have some time to walk around before the parade starts...

Black and white, 4-panel comics featuring original characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic by Dirchansky.
===Strip 1: Jealousy (II)===
This strip shows Austin spotting Jake at Pride while wearing an extremely form-fitting and low-cut outfit. 
Voice - Happy pride! Do you want a photo or sticker?
Austin (thoughts) - that voice...? 
[Austin turns around]
[Austin sees Jake from afar, in front of a photo op booth]
Austin (thoughts) - J-Jake?! What is he doing?! And-What is he wearing?!
===Strip 2: Jealousy (III)===
This strip Austin confronting Jake about the outfit.
Jake - Happy Pride! Did you want a---
Austin - ...
Jake - Uh- wa- hey-!
Austin (mumbling) - You look nice, maybe TOO NICE
Jake - T-the festival gave me this outfit-!!
Austin (menacing) - If anyone lays a finger on you I'm going to rip their arm off.

Black and white, 4-panel comics featuring original characters (Jake and Austin) from Here We Are webcomic by Dirchansky.
===Strip 1: Jealousy (VI)===
This strip shows Austin and Jake having a conversation while taking a photo at the Pride photobooth.
Austin - Booth babe! Let's take a photo together! When is your shift over?
Jake - Uh, six...
[Austin and Jake put on props and do weird poses for the photo]
Voice - 1, 2, 3, cheese!
Austin - I'll meet you here then. Keep the outfit on. I want to take a LONG HARD look at you...in PRIVATE.
===Strip 2: Jealousy (V)===
This strip shows one of Jake's past hook-ups copping a feel...in front of Austin.
Jake (thoughts) - Phew, my shift is almost over.
Hookup guy - Yyoo-! Jay! It's been a while.
Jake - Oh-yeah-
Hookup guy - I really miss this ass.
Jake - Hey-!
[Austin appears, with a dark aura around him]
Jake - Oh shi---------
Hookup guy - Hmm?

The fate of this other man is left up to your imagination. Jake's outfit is 100% inspired by the Sims 4 version of Jake that wears a really skin tight party outfit, haha. I also remember walking around Pride Festival and seeing people who were hired to just be body-candy. Despite how scrappy these comics tend to be, they're really an exercise in being concise, which can take longer to plan out.

I enjoy seeing other artists' illustration when they have have a background/scene going on, so I thought I'd give it a try. This scene feels distant future to me since it would be very rare for them to dress up together. I'm not very good at doing AUs for my own OCs...Austin only owns one suit and doesn't really like wearing neckties. Jake probably owns some fashion suits (skinny/tight look). Students don't have money for fancy suits!

Black and white sketch of two men sitting on a sofa unit while wearing suits. The person on the left is looking relaxed and has his arm extended outwards, propped up by pillows. The person on the right is holding out a glass in his right hand.

Ever since I did HWAnimation I've been into longer-hair Austin...where the wavyness of his hair is a bit more obvious. It's primarily a winter hairstyle. Jake lets the top of his hair grow out too, but it's still faded on the back/sides.

Today's music post: Star by B. B. Smooth.