Website Refresh!

dallion_to_do_list_cartoon

Figured the ‘ol site could use a bit of tidying for the new year.

First, I got rid of the “Stories” section, which frustratingly displayed only the covers from two short stories I did years ago. In it’s place is the new COMICS! section — a one stop shop for all the sweet comics I’ll be making.

I changed the “Scribbles” page, to be more appropriately titled “Illustration”, and updated it with art from 2012.

Finally, I got rid of the mysterious “Stuff” page, and replaced it with a nice page telling a little bit about me.

Other changes:
– Added some columns of foliage! Ain’t that purty!
– Added a contact form!
– Added a “Currently Reading” widget, revealing my current influences!
– Added a “Art Work 2013” widget, in which I’ll post how many hours I’ve spent each week drawing, writing, updating — anything directly related to becoming an Artist with a capital A!
– Added a Email Subscription option! Get notified of new posts via email!

Whew!

Girl Power!

Yeah, we all know chicks rule, especially the ones that don’t like being called chicks. And yes, women are gaining ground, earning more than half of all college degrees. But did you know they’re kicking ass in comics too? I’ve been discovering some awesome female talent lately, artists that are quickly becoming my favorites.

Chief among them is the amazing Kate Beaton. She is the indie-comics-world darling, and for good reason. Not only are her comics incredibly smart (often riffing on historical themes), but her drawings are totally superb. Her line is tops, harkening back to classic cartoon masters like Silverstein, Steinberg, Steig, and Quentin Blake. She is at the top of the game. Just look at how much expression she gets out of those simple faces!

Although she publishes her comics on her website, Hark! A Vagrant, she released them in book form and it looks like it’s doing great. Right now it has 51 Amazon reviews with a 4.5 star average. I bought it, and have been enjoying it each morning with tea.

Next up we have Jillian Tamaki with her online comic, SuperMutant Magic Academy. This gem is a dark parody of Harry Potter, but with its own unique cast characters. Jill really has a talent for social critique. I’ve started at the beginning and haven’t gotten through them all yet, but so far I especially like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one and this one.

Jillian Tamaki has also illustrated some graphic novels, which I hope to check out soon.

Next up, we have Kate Leth of Kate or Die! — a bisexual, feminist, generally badass comic creator. I like this one a lot.

Even though Hyperbole and a Half hasn’t been updated in over a year, it totally gets honorable mention. Using my investigative skillz, I uncovered the creator, Allie, did not in fact die. Turns out the pressures of success made her want to hide (see this facebook note). Guess that’s what happens when your Blogspot post gets over 4000 comments. She’s also writing a book. We’re rooting for you Allie!

Finally we have Vera Brosgol, creator of the fantastic graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost.

This year Vera won an Eisner Award for “Best Publication for Young Adults”. This is the award I’ll be gunning for with the book I’ll begin after I finish my current one. 2015 Eisner’s, here I come!!!

Anywho, cheers ladies! Thanks for brightening the world with your creativity. Comics make me so hot OMG.

Create ePubs on iPads with Book Creator App

In the emerging field of digital picture books, there are two methods of publishing to digital devices. One is to create an App which can feature interactivity, music, games, etc. The other is to create an ePub, which more resembles a traditional book (and can display on more devices… the Nook & Kindle for example). Both paths can lead to success, yet the creation of each can throughly confound the author and illustrator trying to publish digitally. Luckily, a new tool has arrived to help us creative types tackle the technical side. It’s called Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio and it allows anyone with an iPad to easily make ePub books.

Upon opening Book Creator, you’ll be presented with a Getting Started tutorial. While the tutorial is filled with good, easy to understand instruction, you can just as soon skip it. Book creator is so intuitive and simple to use, after 5 minutes of tinkering around you’ll know how it works.

But to say the app is simple, doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. It has a robust text placement system which allows you to select font style, color, size and alignment – and move it around anywhere on your page.

You can insert pictures by selecting them from your iPad photo album, and move and resize them quickly with a swipe of a finger. Inserting and rearranging pages is a breeze, as is opening and testing your project in iBooks.

The only feature I feel Book Creator is missing, is the ability to add audio narration. ePubs have recently become capable of narration and auto-play, and for this format to compete with flashy interactive apps, it’s really a necessity. Right now, I would use Book Creator to build the majority of an ePub file, and then find a programmer to add the audio.

Book Creator is a must-have app for anyone wanting to make their own digital picture books. It’s intuitive to use and will save the independent storymaker a ton of time and money in programming costs. While it currently cannot add audio, there’s a rumor that it could be added in a future update. All-in-all Book Creator is a wonderful tool and has effectively eliminated my excuses. Now the only thing keeping me from publishing a children’s book is me!  :)

False Starts and Dead Ends

Perhaps I was too eager to board this digital bandwagon. Early experimentation with the iPad and eBook building software led me to make two declarations, which I now wish to retract.

1) “I’m entering the InteractBuilder competition to make an interactive children’s book by September 18th.”

After using their software, I’ve decided to not enter this contest. Though they’ve billed InteractBuilder as version 1.0 and ready for public consumption, I find it buggy, not user friendly, and lacking many features. Learning their software requires a programmer’s mind, and for me, really sucks the fun out of making children’s books. In addition, any eBooks made with InteractBuilder can only be sold through their App, which currently has a rather low user rating, and may prove unpopular.

Competing software, which looks like a dream in comparison, is scheduled to be released shortly. Check out these exciting options, Moglue and Demibooks Composer:

2) “I may start creating my art digitally.”

Okay, so I illustrated the first few pages of a book using my iPad. I thought they were good and sent them to my partner for feedback. After a rather tepid response, I was able to pry the truth out of her. About the iPad art she said, “It lacks a certain kind of Dallion-ness.” And I can see what she means. Compare these two drawings:


I don’t know what it is, but one of these is me, and the other isn’t. Compare the character above with the characters in my online portfolio. It’s like he’s too slick or something. My art isn’t slick. My art is skewed and immediate and full of mistakes. The undo button allows me to get it too “perfect” (whatever that is), and somehow sucks the life, or at least the Dallion-ness out of it. Think I’ll stick with my old friends, pen, paper, and watercolor for now.

Trial and error. The destination hasn’t changed, just the method to get there.