Mare Internum: A Thrippin’ Process

I read a stupid amount of webcomics, and I have to say without a doubt Der-Shing Helmer is one of the best creators out there. She never compromises on quality in her writing or art (always find it mind-blowing when the creator does both). She’s currently working on the aftermath and rewards for her second super-successful book Kickstater for Mare Internum, one of her current (but close-to-complete) webcomic projects. I can’t wait to have the final book in my hands. Not to mention she’s started her own publishing company! She’s and incredibly hard worker and I see her as a huge inspiration.

I created this piece to enter in a small contest she was running during the Kickstarter campaign, but it was also a way of saying “thank you” for sharing her wonderful work online. I really do recommend you check the webcomic out.

I’m gonna pick apart some process and a little simple symbolism below. Trying to stay spoiler-free is going to be impossible, so fair warning!


First things first, some sketches to get a basic idea down (I had a pretty concrete layout in mind as you can see).

sketch1.jpg

LEVi, the character depicted, is an AI-enabled subterranean exploratory-robot-turned-extraterrestrial crustacean. I wanted to create a piece that depicted both of these forms layered on top of each other, since the author had their forms be similar in some regards.

Left-hand illustrations credit to Der-Shing Helmer

So as an exploratory robot, it has a headlight of sorts. When their “consciousness” is somehow… transferred into to a Martian crustacean, LEVi’s speech is then depicted in “thrips” in most contexts (also what these little guys are referred by readers and the author of the comic).

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 2.46.16 AM

Credit to Der-Shing Helmer

I stayed faithful to the way the author did the hand-written look of SFX for LEVi’s speech, actually tracing over some panels from the comic to get it just right.

I went absolutely nuts-o on the back pattern. I am a HUGE fan of over-embellishment and ornamentation in design and illustration, and this was the perfect opportunity to try something new. It’s meant to be reminiscent of circuitry boards, but leaning organic.

There’s a couple of things hidden in the pattern, the more obvious being a power-up icon near the top. Near the bottom of the third plate, there’s an abstract fish symbol, representing the main character Michael Fisher (sometimes referred to as “Fish” in the comic), who has a close working relationship, friendship, and history with LEVi.

I isolated the patterns above. As I mentioned in my original blog post, I definitely was inspired by and thinking of Carl Sutton’s work when working on these patterns.

Towards the bottom I included the astronomical symbols of Mars (well, kinda) and Earth, with their respective moons in orbit. And around the entire illustration, sonar waves, which seemed thematically appropriate and houses the illustration. The outline of LEVi’s Martian form slightly pulses as well.

Last but not least, I wanted to include the character’s name someplace, but not just straight-up write it, so it’s hidden in the pink ring.

After drawing everything in Illustrator, I went ahead and pulled the pieces over to Photoshop for the animation. I’ve created looping GIFs before, but overall this was more complicated than anything I’d done previously. And even though I kept the color palette limited, the gradual gradients in the background really racked up the colors once the GIF was saved-for-web. Not to mention the wavy-gradient done over the top of the circuitry pattern. Speaking of…

This was a technique I’ve been wanting to try for some time now. I read about it as a good way to do embers in a fire. Basically mask out the areas you’d like to be fading and rolling through different colors, and using a layer of Difference Clouds (!!! who woulda thunk it actually has a practical use) behind the mask to make the gradual changes in value.

The final GIF is in a previous post below, but here’s a quick link. Thanks for reading! I hope it was interesting.

Here’s one final Thrip sketch. Go read Mare Internum!

thrip_sketch

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Mare Internum

I’ve been spending some of my free time recently on a fan art submission for Mare Internum, a very good, insanely high-quality webcomic. The illustrator/author is running (well, it’s almost over) a Kickstarter for the entire story to be printed. If you submit fan art, you get an extra entry into a side contest for a nice enamel pin of one of the webcomic characters. (More below.)

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It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done any fan art. I also figured it was a good opportunity to up my GIF-making game and try out some new stuff. 🙂 Basic layout was sketched on paper, drawn in Illustrator, then animated in Photoshop. Patterns were inspired by Carl Sutton’s amazing work. I was going for a organic circuitry-board theme.

I just tweeted it at the author! I hope she likes it. I may do a follow-up post about some of the stuff I hid (some obvious, some not-so-obvious).

Update: I created a post about my thoughts and process behind this. Click here!

Easter Eggin’ It

This weekend I got to do egg dying for the first time! …You know, I’m realizing now that I didn’t do a lot of the traditional artsy holiday traditions growing up! I’m getting to experience some of them for the first time with my partner’s family.

I admittedly went a little overboard for my second egg (left).

We then used them to go egg hunting after we were done! Winner got a chocolate bunny. 🙂 And then they went into the egg salad the next day, hah.

Isn’t my partner funny? 😛

I hope you had a great easter break!

 

That Time We Went Sorta-Viral: Double King – Part 2

See Part 1 here, the making of. 🙂

So, the tweet that made my account unusable for a couple of days (and my life… a little tiny bit less productive):

The character’s creator, Felix Colgrave, saw it pretty quickly after I tweeted it. I realize now I tweeted it out late at night when I had a moment to edit everything together, and he happens to live in Australia… total accident.

He retweeted it, and the rest is internet history. Almost 11k likes, over 2.6k retweets, and 641k “impressions” (times people scrolled past it I guess, hah!). We even managed to get some fan art during the flurry of retweets and likes.

I included a couple other photos in a follow-up tweet, but GIFs man, gotta love ’em. They really grab people’s attention.

If you haven’t seen the video, it went viral early last year (2017). I highly recommend it if you have a spare 10 minutes. The animator, Felix Colgrave, did everything on his own, over TWO YEARS. Character designs, animation, music (bits and pieces fair-use samples), EVERYTHING! It’s absolutely insane; I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into this.

Thanks again, Felix! It was fun.

That Time We Went Sorta-Viral: Double King – Part 1

Skip ahead to the good part! Part 2, internet famous.

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. Candy and an excuse for everyone to dress up, what’s not to like? So my significant other decided what he wanted to be, two weeks before Halloween. Double King. We gotta make it!

Cue us running out to the fabric and craft stores. Some hasty geometry at the fabric counter and two styrofoam balls later, we had our raw materials.

The biggest component of the costume is the cape, which has three colors, two lining the edge. We had to take over the living room table and extend our working area with another folding table right next to it. I can mend things but neither of us are particularly strong sew-ers (sewists? had to look that up). We did some binge-watching (I think I watched some of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?) and late weekends, and busted out this bad boy in a little over a week. I also put a clasp below where his chin would be, so it would stay closed.

The boy took care of the eyes and crown since I admittedly did more of the sewing (sewing is so relaxing… and an excuse to “productively” watch TV). Some old Bristol board I had under the bed in my art box and gold spray paint worked pretty well, and kept things light-weight for attaching to the eyes. That piece then was attached to a black baseball cap from an old uniform.

He wore it out on Halloween (and since Halloween fell on a weekday last year, to a few other events before and after), and he got lots of attention and compliments. He had shown the Double King YouTube video to most people in our immediate circle, so a lot of them knew who it was. But aside from that, it’s a pretty cute character, so that helped too.

I didn’t do our informal photoshoot (where that GIF came from) in a field until December when it had cooled off a bit. As usual, it was still pretty hot during the day at the end of October. And then I didn’t tweet it to the creator until March of this year! Some weird combination of procrastination and nervousness of “approaching” him on Twitter (I don’t tweet a whole lot). I’ll go ahead and put that in another post; this one’s getting a mite long.

Little Texas in Tokyo: Follow Up

I had the good fortune of visiting Japan in 2016 (jeez, time flies) and we made a point of going to a bar called Little Texas while we were in Tokyo. My dad and I made a sign out of license plates and scrap metal, and I posted about it here.

Well guess what. One of the people I went with went back recently, and they had hung it on the wall! My friend just texted me a picture.

I know, this picture looks like it could be from just about anywhere in Texas, but I swear it’s in Tokyo, Japan!