Populus tremuloides

Watercolour painting of an original character in a quaking aspen forest.

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Populus tremuloides, or quaking aspen, or trembling poplar, or...many other names.

I don't think it really comes out in the comic (?) but Austin's last name is Poplar. He is a forestry grad and a tree nerd, so at some point I did a bunch of research about trees that were native to where the story takes place: fake Alberta! A lot of poplars are found in Alberta (like Populus balsamifera, but I've always been enamoured by the super bright yellow leaves of trembling poplars and the white trunks with black knots/markings! One of many things I appreciate about Alberta is how you get to experience all 4 seasons distinctly.

Recently, rurupoi, wai, and co. encouraged me to try out 100% cotton paper (Arches 300gsm hot press). I didn't really know what to do with my paper; I'm not much of an illustrator! Long time ago I put down a thumbnail of Austin doing field work in the forest in my notebook.

photo close-up of a rough thumbnail of a painting, focusing on pose and composition

So this thumbnail turned into the basis for a not particularly well planned (as usual) painting. Drawn directly onto the paper with red col-erase pencil.

photo of a sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

I ended up changing the pose and scale a little bit. Maybe I regret changing the pose, but I don't regret changing the placement/scale.

photo of a sketch of poplar trees, with an even small figure in the bottom left corner. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

Originally it was meant to be a rainy picture, but I really wanted a super blue sky against yellow colour scheme. I also bought masking fluid and wasn't ready to use it yet, haha.

photo of a partially painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

I have a tendency to overwork drawings/paintings, so I tried my hardest to not do that here!!

photo of a painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background. There is green painter tape around the paper periphery.

In natural light.

photo of a painted sketch of poplar trees, with a small figure in the bottom left corner. Colours used are primarily yellow and orange for the leaves, and blue for the sky/background.

I wasn't really sure what to expect with this paper, but I can tell it's better than the scrappy stuff I used before.

Today's music post: RAIN(비) - 나로 바꾸자 Switch to me (duet with JYP). What a good 80s/90s pop vibe!

HWA snow scene final

Final HWAnimation snow scene

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IT'S HERE!!!!!! A scrappy animated scene from the non-existent anime version of my webcomic, Here We Are! It's a scene from chapter 9 of the comic.

There are soooo many things that could be refined about this, but I have to turn my attention to my many other projects. I hope people enjoy it despite how rough around the edges it is. I really fumbled around at the beginning, but as I approached the final scene I figured out better ways of working.

Some learnings:

  • Vector layers: a good friend that makes getting rid of intersecting lines very fast. Also good for preserving line quality when constantly resizing and rotating things (which happens a lot in animation, it appears). I didn't leverage this until wayyyy to late, but straight up editing vector anchor points, simplifying lines, etc. were useful, especially if you can't draw strokes properly.
  • Mesh transform tool: Warp all the things to save you re-drawing time!
  • Listen closely: I accidentally listened to the voice/dialogue on high volume through earphones (maybe I should've been doing this to begin with HAHA) and discovered I didn't crop some audio cleanly between takes; I ended up fading out the edges of most of the audio in lieu
  • Gap between taste and skill: The gap is quite pronounced, relative to the other creative endeavours I take on. Regardless, it was all good practice. I give myself 5 gold stars for perseverance, and 2.5 stars for drawing.
  • Solid drawing: I don't have this skill! I don't like drawing graduation caps in rotation. Please!! No! MORE! I should've really nailed done my key frames first. I should've drawn 180 degree rotations/character sheets instead of going by intuition. Lacking a lot of consistency across scenes because of this.
  • Incremental efforts: I'm a "futz as you go" kind of person and that likely led to some un-made decisions that couldn't be undone without 40+ frames of rework later on.
  • Reference: I should've looked at reference earlier than I did. I should have relied more heavily on it, though I suppose it's also of merit to try to draw from your imagination too (though the results are likely subpar if aiming for realism). I mainly relied on intuition and whatever brain data bank I had. For the hat and mouth movements, I did record myself. It's amazing that technology (cameras on phones) is so readily available for artists to get reference that they need quickly.

As celebration, I got fries and fried chicken for dinner, and ordered myself stationery (ink samples! fountain pen!!) which I'm sure I'll talk about later.

Today's music post: Whiskey and Rhapsody from Yakuza 4 OST. Listened to this song a lot while working on the final scenes of this animation!

HWAnimation storyboard

Storyboard for HWAnimation snowy scene

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Spoilers for Here We Are chapter 9!

When I first conceived of the HWAnimation project, I confidently said to myself "I don't need a storyboard! The comic IS the storyboard!", but I was wrong. Ultimately I don't draw comics as if you're looking through a camera; at least, not all the time. Sometimes I do for specific panels, otherwise I tend to vary angles, layout sizes, and zooms, which would've made a horrible, nauseating viewing experience when translated to motion.

It took a little bit more effort to move from the comic to the animated sequence. I'm not convinced it is a good translation, since it looks very simple in storyboard (left). The scene itself has a lot of subtlety in expression and body language, so I kept shots pretty clear and static so viewers can focus their attention on the minute motion. Secondarily I kept angles simple because I'm a beginner who doesn't really know how to draw or animate properly.

In the comic (right), the subtlety is done through focused panels and close-up shots.

photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right photo of storyboards for animation on the left, and the representative comic pages on the right

I used these super loose storyboards and made the v2 animatic and then v2 was further refined into v3 animatic.

Some current stills from the next iteration, which I'm slowing working through.

Drawing of Austin in graduation garb, entering a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates Drawing of Austin in graduation garb, looking around a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates Drawing of various characters in graduation garb, except for an out-of-focus person in the middle of the frame, wearing a maroon/wine coat Drawing of various out-of-focus characters in graduation garb, except for an in-focus person in the middle of the frame, wearing a maroon/wine coat Drawing of Austin walking towards Jake, in a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates and pine trees Drawing of Austin hesitating to reach out to Jake, in a snowy outdoor scene, surrounded by other graduates and pine trees

I've definitely learned a lot about drawing and workflow through this experience. Truthfully some of the later scenes are better than the earlier scenes because I learned some new tricks along the way, but don't have time to go back and futz with the earlier parts. I'm also trying to steer clear of Adobe in production; so far I've only used:

  • Clip Studio Paint EX for all the drawing and compositing
  • Audacity to crop up audio files into shorter bits. CSP's audio capabilities are pretty limited, so I will admit that I won't be spending too much time on getting fancy with the audio (I'm already very tired from DRAWING......let alone audio leveling and mixinggggggggggg ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)
  • Affinity Photo to blur some bgs to make it more lens blur effect (instead of the gaussian blur effect I found in CSP, which are shown above)
  • Sometimes the default video editor that comes with Windows to quickly string together disparate clips (to see how it flows, preliminarily)
  • Handbrake for compression, though the file size and export quality straight out of CSP is pretty impressive though (it does take a while...).

Today's music post: Technology by Fatima.

Jake x Fountain pen

TA+d Fiber bamboo fountain pen

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Another edition of OC x Fountain pen HAHA. Previous one was Austin x Fountain pen...this time it's Jake!!

A photo of a fountain pen laying on top of an open cross grid notebook page full of character sketches

TA+D Fiber Bamboo Fountain Pen

The specific pen I paired with Jake is the TA+d (TreAsia-design, Taiwan) Fiber bamboo fountain pen with a Schmidt steel iridium point nib in F point.

I like the tag line on the box that says "Write like nobody's reading" which is precisely what I'm do for anything I make.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the nib, cap, and grip section. The pen is matte black aluminum

The pen comes with (I assume) a Schmidt converter and an international small cartridge. Looking at the interior barrel of the pen and size of the converter, I think it could fit a regular/long cartridge too.

Photo collage of a fountain pen in its original box packaging, as well as close up shots of the cap and back of the pen. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

Everything about the pen is pretty understated and minimal, which is very much Jake's aesthetic from an apperance POV. There are some subtle striations on the aluminum pen body, a magnetic cap, and a little bamboo stub on the back-end. These choices seem to be both practical and for design aesthetic. The cap can't be posted, but its magnetic powers do allow it to function as a pen rest.

Photo collage of a fountain pen on a white background. The pen is matte black aluminum with a brown bamboo stub in the back

This is definitely a pen that has a risk of rolling away on your table...possibly plummeting to catastrophe (also very Jake-like HAHA). It is also quite weighted (~32g with ink + converter) compared to some of my other pens, so it feels durable from a functional POV. Jake is a sturdy seeming person, but also carries a lot of emotion weight inside of him (at this point, I'm making things up about how the pen pairs up with the OC).

I didn't have a Schmidt nib nor a minimal-leaning pen in my collection, so this pen is a fun addition to the roster. I stumbled onto this pen during excessive Pinkoi browsing. Compared to some of my other pens, this pen put down a FINE line and is on the dryer side. I'm actually able to get subtle hatching effects when doing fast strokes, like you would expect from a pigment/fineliner.

Photo collage of 2 closer-up shots of the nib and section of the pen, on a paper background with drawn patterns. The right photo shows the edge of the metal section where the black plating was worn off to reveal the original aluminum colour.

I have had ink drip/glob from the sides of the fin when uncapping quickly (sometimes flinging onto my paper), though it doesn't leak down via gravity when I'm writing. Maybe it's a cap suction/vacuum thing. Now I try to be slower with my uncapping to prevent this. After using it for a bit (~a month?) I also found some wear on the lip of the section that interfaces with the inner cap. I went through the stock cartridge. I usually clean out the stock cartridge and refill it with a syringe, but the holes on the cartridge seem to be extra small (compared to say, Pilot) so it is harder to clean out. Now I'm using Noodler's Ink eel cactus fruit loaded up in the Schmidt converter, which seems to perform similarly to the stock cartridge. Since this ink is lubricated and tends to write wet, I thought it could be a good pair with this dryer, finer, pen. Also, Jake is a Pinkey fan (haha).

The packaging was equally minimal, fully made of paper, and non-excessive, which I truly appreciate. I really don't like all the plastic and foam that comes with some of my other pen boxes...

Photo collage of the packaging box of a fountain pen. The box is entirely made of paper and is primarily textured matte black with some minimal golden foil accents and text. The box was designed to be slip case that reveals the bottom box that holds the pen.

Here's a comparison with Austin / FPR Himalayan v2 GT...very different vibes.

Photo of an orange and black swirled fountain pen on top (FPR Himayalan v2 GT), and a black matte fountain pen on the bottom (TA+d fiber).

Today's music post: Three Hour Drive by Alicia Keys feat. SiR (Colors Studios). A friend mentioned to me how Alicia sounds a bit like Utada Hikaru (and/or vice versa) in parts of this song.

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).