Monday, 23 June 2008

So yeah, obviously last time I didn't end up getting a strip done. Life has been pretty hectic for me this last year one way or another, but it's now been 10 months since the last strip, give or take. I won't bore you with what's been going on, but I'm now in a great relationship and looking to get a place together with my girl (and her cat(s)).
However, I have been thinking about the strip and also ways to make it go a bit faster, so last night I decided to have a pop at drawing the characters again, only this time, drawing directly into the computer. This saves loads of time. Previously I'd rule out the page, ink the panels, do the rough sketch, tighten up the pencils, ink it, (the inking alone used to take an hour or more,) scan it in in two parts, (I draw on A3 but have an A4 scanner,) match it together in a new file, then write the dialogue onto the page, create the word balloons, and then finally clean up any mistakes, resize and save for web and post it.
That used to take me 4-6 hours.
So last night I created a new file from an old strip I had. First thing is I never have to rule out my panels any more - the most I'll have to do is alter the number, which will take me seconds instead of 20 minutes spent measuring, marking, ruling and inking.
Then I created a new layer in Photoshop, changed the opacity to 50% and sketched out the characters in grey. Once I'd got it into my head that I could be pretty loose and rough, I let go and didn't worry too much. After that I inked it. That went pretty well - I don't have the smoothest line, in part due to having a very small Wacom tablet, but it went ok.
One thing about using PS & a drawing tablet is the ability to change line width via pressure. Of course you can get that with a brush on paper, but brush inking takes forever, which is why I went with technical pens. The variable line width gives the art a slightly different look and I like it. I still need to get used to it and there's a lot of learning to do, but I think my art looks a little free-er than it did before and kind of more natural.
So, the silly comeback strip will be up tonight, and then I'll try to carry on weekly if I can.
The comic will still be hosted over at, because is down for the time being until I can afford to renew my hosting, but it will be back and better than ever because I've been learning some ASP coding at work, which might afford me some interesting opportunities with the site.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Hello? Is this thing on?

Well it was two months since my last strip in October. It's now February. That makes it six months. Yikes. Not exactly what you'd call regular huh? Well I've been doing even more socialising and hanging out with lots of new friends and I was talking to one of them tonight and mentioned that I used to do a webcomic. She read it and wanted to know what happened next, so I read through them again and I got all fired up about how much I loved doing the strip. They take so damn long to do, especially considering they're not even in colour but I had such a great time and I had loads of strips written.
So basically, consider this time apart as a hiatus, which to be honest, is what I did. I always wanted to continue the strip, so I'm going to start looking into it. I have a long weekend this weekend, although Friday I'm going off on an adventure with a friend and Saturday I'm meeting up with a load of friends in London. That leaves Sunday and Monday to get a new strip done and online. I think I'll start looking into doing prep sketches tomorrow. No promises, but I'll hopefully have something new to show Monday night.
Cheers Y'all

Thursday, 4 October 2007

It's been HOW long?

I know. It's been a while since I updated the comic. Well let's not beat around the bush, it's been over two months.
So, reasons. Reasons...
Well let's see, I had a bit of turmoil in my life, I went on holiday with an ex, I was lazy and lastly, I developed something that if you stand across the street and squint, could be mistaken for a social life. Seriously.
I made some new friends and have been hanging out a lot. We've been to an organic food festival, a kite festival, a carnival, a skateboarding fun day, each other's houses for meals and dvd's and out on the razz. It's all very exciting. I also joined a gym, so even on nights where friends are off doing other things, I have something to do on my own which is cool.
It does mean however, that instead of staying in my room alone and drawing, I'm doing the exact opposite, which is great for me but not so great for the comic.
So, by the end of next week I aim to have a new strip up. That doesn't sound like much, but if I can get back into doing one a week I'll be happy. They do take a fair bit of time to do, but I figure I can break them down into drawing, inking, scanning & corrections and finally lettering and balloons. I don't have to do them all at once, so I can do one section per night(ish) and get one done in a week.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

When no one's watching

I was sat at my desk at work today and I got irritated by tiny bits of grit on my mousemat. I'm not sure why my mousemat has the propensity for collecting these minute pieces of detritus, or indeed where they come from, but I dislike the feeling of them under my fingers as I run my mouse around the mat. I got so annoyed in fact, that I picked up the mat and proceeded to beat it against the corner of my desk in an attempt to get rid of them.

Suddenly it occurred to me that if anyone had been passing by my window at that point I would have looked completely mad, like Basil Fawlty when he beat his car with a branch. Why would you beat up a mousemat? Looney.

This got me thinking about other things I do when no one is watching, (no, not THAT!) and I realised I have a tendency to do all sorts of strange little things. I'm sure most people do, in fact I'm certain of it as I had a discussion with my housemates about this sort of thing a while back. I forget what their little idiosyncrasies were, but it was comforting to know that they had them.

Some of mine are perfectly normal, like dancing in the kitchen while doing the washing up (I have my Ipod playing, so that's pretty normal,) but I do other stuff too, like practice martial arts moves, (again not too wierd, especially since I actually do martial arts,) but also just random things that amuse me or make me laugh... I can't think of any examples at the moment, but when I do I'll come back and edit them in. Oh - like making up silly songs on the spot, usually containing a large splash of profanity, (and sometimes only using swear words,) which makes me chuckle to myself. Other times I practice skateboard moves, without the board. (Again I do skateboard, so not entirely nuts.)

One thing I like to do, (when circumstances permit,) is while driving alone, at night and when it's snowing. I imagine that the snow flakes coming toward the windscreen are really stars and that I'm in some sort of space fighter ship, travelling along at incredible speeds so the stars streak past.

My point is, if everyone does this sort of stuff, why can't we do it in front of each other? With some close friends you can display some of this behaviour - a friend of mine is amazing at making up silly songs on the spot, about whatever is in front of him at the time, be it a drink, his cats or whatever but they are always funny and sometimes his wife joins in and they end up doing a duet - never fails to make me laugh.

It seems to me that our fear of others' perceptions of us is a much bigger motivating factor in our behaviour than I had previously realised. On the whole I don't think of myself as a person who worries a lot about what other people think, but I keep these things to myself, so perhaps societal pressure exerts on me in more subtle ways than I realised. Like for example if I see a person walking down the street alone smiling to themselves, it makes me smile, but if that person is walking alone and talking out loud and there is no mobile or bluetooth headset present, then I tend to think they're a little strange but I have on many occasions verbalised my thoughts while alone. (My housemate does it a lot, to the point where I have stopped asking if she's talking to me and just wait to see if the conversation requires my input.)

I think that if we could get past the embarrasment of the situation, it would help foster bonds between people. Imagine seeing someone doing something wierd or silly that you do in private and rather than ridiculing them for it, (we've all caught someone doing something and given them the, 'oookaaay' raised-eyebrow look, and also been on the other end of it,) instead we said, 'Oh I do that too!' or admit to doing something similar. Imagine the feeling of relief that person would feel and the instant bond it would create between you. It could be that the thing that ends up uniting humanity is our admission that we're all at least a bit wierd...

So, what do you do when no one else is watching?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Majik and coincidence

I have a book on magic, or magik or majik, however you want to spell it. Most of the book is over my head to be honest, but it makes for interesting reading, if only to see how some people think about the subject.

The first article in the book is written by Grant Morrison, who is a pretty famous writer if you're into comics. It's about how to be a 'pop' magician and talks about how to easily integrate majik into your everyday existence. It talks about things like sigils (majikal symbols,) and channelling spirits, but in a very different way to the 'usual' way of talking about these things - for example Grant mentions that if he wants to feel more confident in a situation, he prepares by channelling the spirit of James Bond. It's like majik lite and his main premise is 'use what works', which makes a lot of sense to me. He also talks about doing things like walking in a receptive state - being open to signs and messages from the universe.

To me, majik is similar to a lot of things in life. I don't really believe that when spiritualists channel spirits, they are actually talking to the dead or that people can perform spells as such. I'd love to be wrong, but I see no evidence to support it.

My belief is that majik, along with many other disciplines, like cold reading, fortune telling, apparently psychic abilities etc, work in a different way. I think what happens is that you make a direct connection with your subconscious. The subconscious is a wierd and wonderful place that we really don't understand. Your subconscious, so I am told, never develops past the age of 6. Kids of 6 are full of majik and wonder. I've read some bits about left and right brain theory too - the left controls language, mathematics and reason, the right controls creativity and abstract thought. The right brain works in patterns only and has no sense of time, so when you suddenly think of the answer to a problem three days later while sat in the bath, it's because your right brain has been working on pattern matching in the background while the rest of your brain has been busy with language and how much change you should get from a 20 after buying a round of drinks. (Left and right are terms and do not necessarily map to those sides of the brain in reality.) I think the left side of the brain corresponds to conscious thought and the right subconscious thought.

So, we have a part of our brain, (perhaps 'mind' is a better term,) that has no sense of time, (hence why when many artists are working on a project, they kind of zone out, or go into a trance like state and could not tell you how long they've been working until they look at the time,) and is permenantly 6.

Thing is, because the subconscious works on a pattern matching methodology, it's a very powerful problem solving tool - only the lack of a temporal sense counterbalances this. People under hypnosis have been able to remember events in astounding detail, say for example, the registration of a car that hit them thet they themselves didn't even think they'd seen.

It seems to me that our perception filters are mainly, or possibly exclusively for use with our conscious mind, enabling us to live without getting bogged down in trivial detail, but the subconscious, unfettered by these filters, picks up on many more details and then assembles them into patterns based on previous matches.

Hypnosis is a way of tapping into the subconscious via the conscious mind and I think things like affirmations, positive reinforcement, majik and the like offer a similar interface.

Because we view our world through the conscious mind, which is in turn partly fed by the subconscious, we see patterns everywhere: for example, the two punctuation marks :) become a smily face. It's a colon and a bracket, but we transform that into the pattern of a rudimentary human face. If this is true, there can be no such thing as coincidence, only the value we attach to patterns we ourselves create. This is not to say these patterns are without value, but that they have no objective or intrinsic value in and of themselves, but only subjective value placed on them by the observer.

So anyway, I was in my kitchen yesterday and I was thinking about my recent break up and the situation surrounding it and wondering what to do next. I was in a fairly receptive state obviously, due to being deep in thought. I found a sock of mine on the floor that had fallen there when I had taken my washing out of the machine. It was kind of balled up, so I shook it to even it out.

At the time I was wearing a bracelet of beads that I had bought whilst on holiday in Greece with the girlfriend I had before the last one and it had come to symbolise certain things about that relationship. As I shook the sock, my bracelet flew off my arm and I watched as, seemingly in slow motion, it hit the floor, the elastic snapped and the beads sailed into the air in random directions before bouncing to a halt.

This completely stopped my train of thought as I wasn't expecting it and I found myself just staring at all the beads for a second, thinking about how it had come to symbolise a previous break up and it broke while I was thinking about my current break up.
As I stood there I realised that I didn't know what to do. Should I carry on putting my sock up to dry or should I sort out my bracelet first?

Suddenly I heard the answer in my head, (in my own voice I might add,) as clear as crystal. In fact the thought was so isolated from anything else, it was like hearing a church bell in the dead of night when everything else was quiet. My brain is usually a fairly noisy place, so the significance was not lost on me when it said,

"I should pick up the pieces."

and there was my answer. My subconscious was telling me what I should do, both about the bracelet and the current situation. Coincidence? Wierd? Not really. I think we all have our answers most of the time, locked away in our subconscious until such time as it's ready to let your conscious mind know and being in a receptive state, whether through majik, or excercise, or prayer or positive thought can help facilitate getting these answers.

Just a thought.

Monday, 30 July 2007

And we're back...

Ok, so it took me two weeks, (and one day,) but the latest issue is finally up. It's a double parter too and we finally get to find out what type of animal Alex is.
It would have gone up last night, but for the fact that it was the birthday of an old housemate of mine. I sent him a text to wish him happy birthday as he now lives up north, only to find out he was actually back for the weekend, so drinks were in order. After an evening of drinking, I got home after 1am, slightly worse for wear and decided it was probably best if I didn't work on the comic in that state.
My last post was one of my philosophical ones, albeit with a slightly negative slant, which was brought on by a bad case of the blues, which itself was brought on by my current situation.
Anyway, I'm feeling slightly better and doing the comic had a lot to do with that as I find it really satisfying to complete a strip and see it go up online.
I'm definitely going to carry on with the comic, because there are so many benefits to it: a sense of pride that I get from completing a strip as well as from being proud of sticking with it, the peace I get while drawing it and many others. Really the only downside to drawing the strip is that during inking, my elbows seize up and I have to take regular breaks to unlock them, but it's a small price to pay.
Otherwise, I'm still busy at work and trying to reassemble some form of social life in the wake of my returning to singledom. I'm going back to my martial arts class this week, (missed that for a couple of weeks too,) I've started to lose weight again and generally things are looking like they have an upward vector, even if the gradient isn't too taxing just yet.
Umm... I guess that's it for now. Enjoy the double issue (unless you're Sam, in which case you won't be reading it, but you will be reading this. Hi Sam.).

Friday, 27 July 2007

Existence - the real Heaven and Hell?

I'm feeling a bit philosophical today, as I often am and I got reading some articles about the Matrix and some of the philosophy and metaphorical elements to it.
Now say what you like about the Matrix trilogy, but when the first film came out it was a sensation - no question. The effects, the choreography of the fight scenes, the plot... it all added up to a blockbuster. Thing is, if you are a half way intelligent person, it really made you think. If you were a halfway intelligent person with a curious personality or an interest in philosophy, it not only made you think, it made you puzzle over it for some time. What a way to bring philosophy to the masses!

I believe that subjective experience is all we have and that all of the subjective experiences and the associated emotional and rational responses we had to those experiences form our personalities to the greater extent. The word for this is Weltanschaaung, a German word that basically means the 'world view', or the summation of your life's experiences. This is distinctly different, but at the same time, intertwined with memory. Your Weltanschaaung is obviously held in your memory, but it's not just 'memories' in the traditional sense. It is your memories of everything that has happened to you and your responses to those incidents. It is the starting point for any new experience - your brain first refers to your Weltanschaaung to see if you have encountered something like this before and if so, how you responded as a point of reference.

It has been said that the only constant is change. People tend to think of themselves as unchanging - that I am me, no matter what happens to me. If I were to lose an arm, I would still be me. Obviously this has to do with the seperation of body and mind, but there is an argument to be made that the two are intrinsically linked - if the body dies, so does the mind and vice versa.
However, people do change, both physically and in their personalities. Tastes change in food, clothes, friends etc. Every ten years you effectively grow a new skeletal system, due to cell replacement. Every month your topmost layer of skin in completely replaced. You form new opinions based on new information. You may have a discussion with someone and come to ally yourself with a point of view they have, in which case do you assimilate a part of their personality? If this is the case, and we are creatures of flux, how can we define ourselves as constant, individual personalities?

The power of the mind is awesome, in the literal sense of the word and can affect a person's day to day experience of the world. People with cognitive disfunctions will experience the world in a much different way from someone without those disfunctions.
There is a culture, (and I'm sorry but I cannot remember which,) that believes that Heaven and Hell are real, but exist only in the minds of everyone. They believe that you pass through Heaven and Hell several times per day and that these concepts of Heaven and Hell are not places, but states of being - joy and misery. Everyone has the power to decide to be happy or unhappy - to let things get to you or to let things go, but it's not always easy to do so.
Strangely, I've never really done much thinking on the concept of Heaven, but I have thought a lot about Hell - again in more abstract terms than thinking of it as an actual place to be transported to after death.
My thinking is along the same lines as above - that it is a state of being that can be influenced by outside events but ultimately exists only in the mind of the individual.
However, I did think about what I would do if I were given the task of creating a human Hell. For me, Hell would not be about fire and brimstone or sulpherous boiling lakes. It would not contain demons engaging in painful tortures.
My Hell would be about frustration. To me, frustration is a far more insidious feeling than pain. Pain can be ignored or treated and is always transient at best. Pain will break people, but frustration is what sends them mad.
My Hell would be a place whereby the average person would be set upon by desirable enticements, (which could be a range of things, from money and possesions, to small amounts of power, to love...) designed to foster longing, only to be thwarted by other societal issues. My Hell would be a place where there was a great disparity between those in power and those without, but that those in power would knowingly foster hope in those without, whilst being safe and comfortable in the knowledge that 99% of people would never achieve what they hope for. This would be achieved by allowing people certain, small rewards which are completely negligable, token gestures to those in power, but which to those without represent the possibility of becoming one of the elite and therefore fosters hope.
Hope is the key to my Hell because without it, people would give up. If there is truly no hope left in a situation then people have no choice but to give up, but if even the tiniest glimmer of hope exists, they will work and fight and die in order to achieve the unachievable.

So, in short, my Hell would be somewhere where you work for things that are either ultimately trivial, or at best, transient whilst being constantly frustrated by your lack of any real power to change things, but being spurred on by the hope that one day you will be able to. Sound like anywhere you know?

Taking all that into consideration, I can honestly say that the last month of my life has been Hell.