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  • Step by Step

    I posted some rough sketches last week. I figured I would show the progression and where the panel is now.

    Outlining the pencil lines on a separate layer, cleaning up the sloppy areas and fixing some of the little things I didn't care for in the pencil parts.

    Adding color. I do the backgrounds sloppy and fast. I don't want to dwell on detail there unless it's important and I need to call attention to it.

    Lastly I change the line colors a little, nothing too fancy here, mostly I just take a dark brown radial gradient to the outlines to soften them up. I'm also adding a background texture as well as some overlay layers to give it some lighting and make the bottom of the frame darker than the top.

  • Perspective

    Dusting off some of that old high school art class knowledge and doing some perspective drawing. Here are a couple in progress panels.

    These green lines should all meet at one point but these don't exactly, I got sloppy. I didn't need to be super precise with them. I just wanted some quick guides to use when sketching to give the effect.

  • I'm Drawing Comics

    I’m working on comics again. This time I’m trying something a little different, writing a story. Before all my comic work has been in the form of a weekly gag strip. Fun to do, but I rushed a lot of the artwork to meet my self imposed deadline. With this longer form story I want to spend more time making the best art I can and hopefully become better at it in the process.

    The downside of this of all this is that comic posts will be few and far between. I set up this fancy new blog to share progress art instead. Fun, right?

    I’ve been pencilling a lot of story parts lately. Here are some of the pencils I did last night while my daughter was ice skating.

  • Shaky Lines

    I’ve been fiddling with my comic drawing style again. I’ve talked a bit over the last few weeks about using the Surface for drawing and the pros & cons. One of the cons is how difficult it is to use Adobe Illustrator on a high density screen. The touch points are just a tad too small.

    To remedy this I’ve been inking my comics in Photoshop. There are two problems with this. The first is I’ve never had a steady drawing hand. Illustrator does a lot to make it look like I do. I’ve decided with my latest artwork to just embrace it. Charles Schulz of Peanuts comic strip fame had a very shaky style after he suffered a stroke. He embraced it and beautiful work came from it. Second is that I also suck at using pen pressure. I can never keep it consistent.

    I’ve also added some texture to the illustration above. I think the rough texture compliments the rough lines and makes it look more purposeful.

  • Why We Have A Code of Conduct

    Video Transcript

    Last week was Rustbelt Refresh, which is a web design conference I co-organize with Bridget Stewart and Brad Dielman. Several people noticed something new this year: a code of conduct. A couple asked: “Why are you doing this, did you have problems last year?†The short answer is no, but we've been organizing local web events for years.

    Early on we did all this through Meetup.com but later on we formed the Cleveland Web Standards Association or CWSA. And with any free local meet up, sometimes a jerk shows up. It happens.

    There was the one guy, we'll call him Mike. Wait, we can't call him Mike, that's his real name. Lets call him Ted.

    Ted liked to show up at the meetings and tell us how much better Dreamweaver was than Joomla. This guy complained about everything!

    Our monthly meetings were usually held off site at local offices that companies were generous enough to lend us. Companies like LeanDog or Progressive Insurance. These were cool locations. Some of them like LeanDog were easy to find because LeanDog is located on a boat. It's not hard to find a boat. Progressive, on the other hand, is a campus. It's not hard to find the campus, but sometimes it's hard to find the building you're looking for on the campus. We would tell people to just find the largest building at the end of the parking lot and in there you'll find someone who can escort you where you need to go. You had to put on their little security badges anyway.

    Ted felt that our description of how to get to the meeting on the Progressive campus was a little vague. Fair criticism. The problem is that he called Bridget, one of the organizers, and really laid into her. Bad Move Ted, bad move. He didn't call me or Brad Dielman, but he did start calling random attendees. All of the attendees he called were women. The people he was calling and yelling at weren't people listed on our site. He was going out of his way to find the female attendees and yell at them about our directions.

    We found out about this from our friends who were called and were like “What is up with this Ted guy?†Who knows how many people Ted called that we never heard about because they were too freaked out to ever come back.

    We had no idea what to do or how to deal with this guy. We were just lucky that he never came back.

    As we were organizing Rustbelt Refresh this year, one of our speakers, Rachel Nabors, suggested we look into a code of conduct for the conference. There's a lot of details that go into planning an event and this wasn't one that we had put a lot of thought into. After looking at some of the things other conferences have done. we realized it made a lot of sense.

    Most of these polices have two parts. The part that you the attendee sees that tell you not to be a jerk and the part we see that tells us how we should deal with the Teds of the world. I kinda wish we had something like this when we were dealing with Ted.

    Here is what we liked about the code of conduct:

    1. It made us, the organizers, more transparent to the people attending the conference. The CWSA website didn't have our names or contact information on the website. We also weren't wearing badges or anything that identified us as organizers. We're lucky that in Cleveland we have a small tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody else and you can kinda figure out who the organizers are. A conference like Rustbelt is a completely different animal. There are people coming into town from all over the place who didn't know who we were or how we could help them. And not just people they could talk to about harassment, but people they could talk to if the coffee was bad or something was wrong with the sound or any other problem they had.

    2. It gave us a clear plan on how to deal with the Teds. On the day of your event, there are a million things going on. You have a schedule and a lot that has to happen. You don't have time to stop and react. How Bridget, Brad and I usually work is we group up, discuss the problem, and usually come to a consensus before taking action. The day of the conference there isn't time to do that. Having the policy in place was one less thing we had to worry about. It was just good planning.

    3. It's a good vibe. I was surprised how many people noticed we had posted it in our footer. We didn't call it out or use it as marketing, but a lot of people noticed it was there and approved. We also had more women at the conference this year. Of course, correlation does not prove causation but it was still nice to see.

    But Brad, aren't you worried about getting sued?!?

    If you're worried about lawsuits—don't organize a conference! Someone could have been allergic to the food. Someone could have fallen down the stairs. There are a lot of things you can be sued for.

    That's about it. I'm pretty happy with the way the entire conference went. It was a lot of fun to do and we enjoyed it tremendously.

  • It's Not File Size That's Killing iPad Magazines

    Since the announcement and launch of the new retina display iPad, designers have been pointing out the obvious problem, magazine downloads that were already huge are going to become absolutely enormous. But magazines on the iPad have bigger problems than file size.

    I spent over a year working for a startup trying to build a publishing platform for tablets, we failed. There are a lot of reasons for the company’s demise but I’m going to focus just on one: Print magazines are still a better experience than their digital counterparts.

    If you’re going to successfully evolve into a new medium you can’t just add gimmicks, you have to substantially upgrade the user experience. If you asked anyone 15 years ago what the future of music looked like they would have told you that it was about fidelity, listening to an album would sound like you were at a concert or in the center of the orchestra pit. But that hasn’t been the case, in fact the overall quality of the music we listen to has gone down. The experience of being able to fit your entire music collection in your pocket, or stream any song to your phone leapfrogged any fidelity improvements other formats like DVD audio could make.

    We never saw this kind of improvement in magazines, if fact the experience has gotten worse. Looking at a magazine on an iPad at its best leaves you wondering if you’ve seen all the content and at its worse feels like you’re reading a broken PDF. I subscribe to two magazines that have free iPad downloads for subscribers and have never download the digital version, reading the dead tree version is just easier.

    How can magazines improve? They are no longer limited to releasing content on a monthly or weekly basis that was necessary with print. They can now put their content out in a format that is really easy to share and build reader loyalty. They can now get back to their roots, magazines like Rolling Stone were founded by people who ate, breathed and crapped music. I’m sure there are folks working there now who love music but we haven’t seen that kind of passion in the magazine in decades.

    I know what you’re thinking: we’ve seen all this before, it’s called a blog. Yep, exactly.

    It’s taken time, but blogs have become what magazines should have been evolving into. A complaint heard over and over from traditional journalists is that the web couldn’t do the kind of in depth journalism that their print counterparts do. This mantra is probably repeated more for the self esteem reasons than anything based in reality. If you take a look at a site like The Verge it’s hard to find any tech journalism in any medium that’s better. It’s only a matter of time before large news sites have the same budgets and reach that newspapers and cable news networks have now. In blogging you are forced to keep your finger on the pulse of what your readers want or you’ll die a quick death.

    Magazines aren’t just dying because they don’t understand a new medium, they are dying because they don’t understand the audience they’re trying to serve. The decision to use Adobe’s platform (or anyone else’s, even the one I worked on) wasn’t made to make a great magazine, they were made to get onto the iPad as fast as possible with as little overhead as possible. Publishers flocked to the iPad because the app model looks so much like the publishing model that they were familiar with. Publishers have gone into self preservation mode. They are trying to make a small profit wherever they can and in the process have thrown away long term reader loyalty for short term profits. Occasionally I would hear a publisher talk about what their readers wanted, but it was always under the guise of some gimmicky new feature that might get them some press attention and rarely about the core content.

    In the end it isn’t file size that’s killing magazines it was the decision years ago not to more aggressively embrace the web and evolve their business.