Emphasized by having my right elbow slam downwards with force. As you might be able to guess, that means good news. Know how page 8 has been giving me such woes? (Well, I put some of my problems on CF, rather than on here, butstill.) Well...
...While it's not perfect...
I FINALLY DID IT!
So for emphasis.
It looks awesome. I mean...it's a bit rough on the right elbow, the left arm (the left arm is foreshortened to be short, and I didn't QUITE get that, same problem I had with foreshortening before only the other way now), and frankly, I misplaced Ruby; she needs to be almost an inch further to the right.
That doesn't even go into the speech/thought bubble positions which I know are godawful, but these? These are, mostly, easy fixes come time for digitization. She looks absolutely incredible overall right now. And the trick behind why is stupidly, stupidly simple. See, out of frustration at this page, I was wondering...what could I do?
Then an idea hit me. "I might as well go back to..." a tool that I had thought I had outgrown. See, there's something called QAvimator. I don't know if it still exists, and if it does, I don't know if it's still free, but I downloaded it when it was a new thing and have used it as an anatomy tool since then for posing. But mostly, it's flawed. See, while it can perfectly mimic the range of human movement, it's difficult to actually get it into the positions you're looking for most of the time.
And even when you finally get it into the position you desired, there's a small problem of the gaps and blockiness that the bent, twisted pose you made creates, which creates choppy anatomy. Thus, why I prefer to use reference images in lieu of it nowadays for the most part. In other words...it's an "outdated" tool: one that can give me the pose I'm looking for, but in an uncanny valley sort of way.
...But out of frustration and sheer desperation, I decided, "You know what? I might as well try." So...I started the initial process by rotating the model into an angle appropriate (rotating the hips is more effective than rotating the camera), but wondered, "...Now what?" So...I took up the reference image I used last page, you know, the one I traced, and from THAT image, I tried to (with the appropriate angle, so I had to note the original rotation and change it to match the reference image temporarily) as closely as I could match the imagery of the reference image with the QAvimator model.
Then, when I turned her back around, with some quick and cheap modifications and fine tuning, I looked at the image and saw...well, "Okay, so this is just a model, but if it had the clothing, accessories, skin color, and hair of Ruby as appropriate, it would be EXACTLY the image I was going for." And, well. It is! I might even upload the QAvimator image to show you what I mean. It's a BEAUTIFUL shot. So what did I do from there? Cheat again by tracing (bad habit, I know, but it saved time and got accuracy on an image I HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING ON ALL DAY. YOU WOULD TOO, IN MY PLACE), and once I fleshed out some of the finer details, it was almost perfectly captured in the art.
Which, with some minor tweaks here and there (like fixing the left arm--I think it needs to be longer and pointed more upward), will look AMAZING.
So while the actual art doesn't QUITE look as good as the self-created reference image (okay, self-created with some help), it's SO ridiculously good that I really won't need to do much at all in order to fix the page. Beautiful art, done with a simple fix. And, yeah. The Qavimator version looks basically EXACTLY like what I envisioned and was struggling so hard to create. It's really, really awesome.
In fact...let me show it to you.
The feet are absolutely perfect for shoes AND socks, as shown in the mockup, and the skirt (as indicated by the dark gray pencilmarks) also looks mighty fine. Now, for the mockup, I couldn't draw the hoodie that well (represented by the green), but the actual art nailed it. The black on the shoulders, too. Her hoodie extends to about the marked zones, maybe a bit further on the right arm, but thereabouts anyway.
Then you've got a GREAT shot of her hair. The brown more or less indicates how I did that and am planning to proceed. It's all-around realistic, yet still feeling vaguely animesque, while also perfectly capturing my vision and all-in-all, being a neat shot, with neat perspective, and a neat effect. There's a slight downside in not seeing Ruby's face while she's doing this, but such is the effect of a back shot. Her pose does the emoting for her: ready, alert, and careful.
Also worth mentioning: I made this mockup, too. (Making a lot of those.)
Meaning that this perfectly shows my idea. It's mostly brought to life, too! All I really need to do is draw the villain, now, which shouldn't be too terrible.
Not bad for a page that has taken me literally all day to produce. (Albeit with some brief breaks. Like eating breakfast. Hours after I was up.)
So...feeling good again. I got a lot of good things out of this page. (For instance, all the reference images I tracked down when starting the drawing.) It may have taken me FOREVER to actually do, but it's time well spent. I didn't have to give up, even though I was on the verge of just putting it aside and working on something else, like, say, a new page. I managed to actually produce my vision, and it looks cool, so...now I, once more, have been heavily encouraged to push onward and upward.
This is page eight. Of 22. My prospects of finishing all 22 before my Monday deadline are...looking quite grim. Yet even if I don't make it, this blitz experience behind the PROCESS I am doing now, of attacking the art head-on to get it done? Totally worth all the time I'm pouring into it. The sacrifices I'm making are worth it.
'Cause I think, even if I fail my deadline, I've proved myself an artist. Maybe not the best artist. I cheat. I take shortcuts. I need a lot of help to get where I want to go. But an artist, all the same. Someone who gets a vision and can actually realize it. In a fairly realistic timeframe, too! I mean...expecting to produce a whole month's worth of content (average episode length will probably be 30 pages or so, and if they were released one a day, that'd be how long it'd take) in half a week? Pretty ambitious goal, when you think about it.
Yeah, I knew from the get-go I would never get to the point of digitizing, hoping to at least get to the point where I'd be READY for digitizing. But let's put things in perspective. It used to take me three days of solid work on a single page in order to produce a sketch. One week ago, I had three pages (plus the cover) done. Exactly one week ago, that's where I was at.
One week later, I have (almost--still need to draw the villain) EIGHT pages (plus the cover) done. Over double. I didn't work on pages Sunday (traveling). I didn't work on pages at least one other day, if not two. (I forget, would have to look at my own blog posts to see how that was chronicled.) I think it went something like a page on Monday, a page on Tuesday, a page on Wednesday, no page Thursday, and a page both today and Friday. Sounds about right. That's five pages in a week. Producing a page every single day I sat down to make one.
And...best of all. I'm not cranking out pages that I'm like, "oh, all these things will need to be fixed". (Okay, I kinda am. Sorta. But in the details, mostly, where I'm like, "These are things that are quick digital fixes so I'm not going to bother, but they're not going to require a huge overhaul." Or things that are, "this will be a project digitally, but only if I'm going for absolute perfection; it'd be fine as-is otherwise". And such.)
I'm making pages that, for the most part, I'm proud to have made. Am I some master artist? No. Do I have a style that can distinctly be called my own? Well, maybe, but my art is too inconsistent to be sure. Do I keep characters consistent? Well, not yet, but I'm getting better at it with every page. Do I keep my characters different from one another? Well, I've only drawn two so far in the comic itself, but if my doodles are any indication, they're at least distinct enough that you can tell them apart. (I'll work to avert Only Six Faces, but, well...you do what you can, and if it works, it works; if not, just press on.)
All the same. In spite of these flaws. In spite of it still being sketches, without the color, without me digitizing them, without cleaning things up to make them better. In spite of me very, very much being an amateur artist, both in scripting and drawing...I still love what I am making.
And that makes all the difference in the world.
That's why I'll keep going throughout the weekend, even if it's a lost cause. Because...this is something I want to do. Artistically. As an author. Emotionally. Spiritually. There's just so very, very much about Red Hood Rider that is important to me. It proves my existence as valid, basically.
When I said Red Hood Rider is a milestone in my life...I really wasn't kidding. This is something I feel, very strongly, I was meant to do, now. I may never make a dime from webcomicking (even if I had the opportunity, I'm not sure I'd take it, since a huge part of me feels guilty for all the shortcuts and cheats I use that make me feel like, while, yes, I am an artist, no, I'm not an artist you should actually be PAYING to do art), but I've got proof in nearly every page I produce that it's no mere hobby. It's something that wants to be made. It's something that calls to me.
This is a strange feeling.
I...I'm not sure I've felt this way about something before. I know I have bipolar disorder, and this frankly could be the mother of all manic episodes to come crashing to a grinding halt the moment I stop and inertia kicks in, with depression, lifesuck, and all-around business sucking up my project and draining my soul.
But...while I suppose it's possible this is not a new feeling, that perhaps something else has made me feel this way before (in fact, I'm pretty sure something else did, though what, I don't recall--I know that it was something I followed through on if so, though, because that's the nature of this feeling), this is something I know I won't let go of.
It's...very, very different. Weird. Something difficult to describe. It's...I think the best word for it might be euphoria? I'm not sure. It's something. I'm definitely not imagining this. It's real, and it is very much calling out to me to keep working. That's why I'm not doing anything else right now. Because...
...This feeling, this something, is so...so good, so strong, that it demands to be followed.
It's truly incredible.
I feel...validated. At home. At ease. Those feelings are INCREDIBLY rare. So if you don't mind, I'm going to cherish them for as long as possible, by doing the thing that is triggering them: continuing to draw, throughout this weekend, and then after that. I'll be forced to reduce the amount of drawing I do after this weekend (this level of production won't happen, but I'd be happy with a page every 2-3 days if my comic got a strong head-start via a buffer and a, say, two-a-week release schedule), but I'm not stopping it.
Not after this.
I feel proud to call myself an artist now. And I've come a long way to earn that. When I first did art, I didn't think of myself as an artist. I thought of myself as just a writer. I acknowledged that you could argue writing is art (it is, just a different form), but I didn't think my drawings were much.
Now, I do.
That is, quite literally, a once in a lifetime experience. I can have my art evolve many times. I can feel like my art's not good enough many times, and drive myself to improve many times. I can look at my work and think it's good many times, just as I can think it's bad many times. But that feeling? That acceptance of, yes, I can draw, yes, I'm an artist, yes, I am doing something that is not a total waste of time? That...
...Is a moment I intend to cherish forever, as it's only here, only now, I will ever feel it.
Happy New Year, indeed. Couldn't have a better way to get into 2016.