I continue to fall behind, but also continue to carry on.
Day 22’s prompt is ‘chef’ starring Neelix, from Star Trek Voyager, who took over in the ship’s kitchen. I think they decided to have a cook in order to reserve replicator power? I haven’t seen many episodes of Voyager.
And I just realized I forgot to add the dots on his left cheek in panel 2.
If this is your first visit here you can catch up on all of my Star Tre Inktobers so at this link.
I doodled ideas in my sketchbook. Lynda Barry, I think, talks about the magic that happens when you just start moving the pen or pencil. Ideas show up.
First I had Data peeking in at Livingston, then Q.
I tried to shape the story around the two images I now had. Picard drinking tea. Q peering in at Livingston.
A day in Picard’s ready room. You can see the nighttime shot in the last thumbnail.
Then when looking for Livingston reference shots, I saw Hugh, the reluctant Borg, observing Livingston, and I knew that was it. Not only would the Borg be more recognizable as a big headed comix character, but it also felt more…alien.
Rather than an empty ready room, I decided to begin and end the comic with Picard looking out at space sipping from the tea. Though the gesture was the same, maybe Picard was a little different.
In the sketchbook page above you can see I made some notes.
Study: MC Escher, Fisheye, Lionfish.
These were a reminder to research these aspects before I could begin drawing the strip proper.
Escher & fisheye
I knew I wanted Livingston’s aquarium sphere to warp the light and image of the ready room, to give it that ‘Fisheye Lens’ look.
Today’s gag (I don’t love that word, gag, does anybody have a suggestion for what to call the twist or story in a comic? Maybe turn, how about turn. Let’s try turn. Maybe it will stick.) came from the idea that everybody and I mean everybody is there waiting for Admiral Ackbar, when he utters his now-iconic line.
How many characters from different storytelling universes can you identify?
Today’s (yesterday’s) comic wouldn’t have been possible without the work done by http://www.merzo.net/indexSD.html. Though I paid no attention to the actual scale researched here, it did give me lots of ideas on who to include. The site is a lot of fun to browse. Go. Browse.
I originally had the last two panels reversed when I sketched out the story idea. See the sketch below.
My friend Whitley suggested switching the order of the last two panels, and he was right. Since I was going to have so many different ships and characters there waiting for Ackbar, that was the joke, so that needed to be last, to show how this ‘trap’ was different from previous traps.
Thanks, Whitley. I’m lucky to have a fellow writer to workshop silly ideas with.
(It only now occurred to me as I write this post inside a Discount Tire while I wait for my tire to be repaired on a cold and sleety fall day, that I forgot to give Ackbar a huge head. Sheesh.)
Inktober 2020 Will Be Different
I was talking to a friend last week about last year’s Inktobers. I couldn’t remember why I fizzled out before the month’s halfway mark in 2019.
Last night working on yesterday’s strip, I realized what it was.
As I go along through the month, the strips begin to take longer and longer to craft.
I become more patient, I do more research, I become more ambitious with the storytelling, and start drawing backgrounds. The comic takes longer to make as I get more confident in making it.
This year’s inktober is no different. Compare today’s comic to day one. What makes this year different, though, is that I’m going to keep going, even if my Inktober stretches into November and beyond.
Hopefully, you’ll stick with me.
Browse Star Trek Inktober
I created a collection to house all of this year’s Star Trek Inktobers, so you can easily browse your favorites and skip over the clunkers. It’s easy!
Last night I hit a wall of exhaustion after drawing the strip and just couldn’t get to the inks, so today’s inktober is arriving a little late in the day.
I’m starting to spend longer on each strip, too. The last two have taken me about 4 hours each, from drawing to completed inks, so it makes it harder to get one of these done a day.
Here’s a look at the pencils from today’s strip, before I inked them. I always like to take a photo because I’m worried I’m going to screw up a perfectly good drawing.
Like Day 8, I originally thought this might be just a single image of Picard, sipping a cup of tea, while an ion storm rages outside his ready room window.
Brilliant cartoonist Ivan Brunetti talks, somewhere in his brilliant book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, about not having to change each drawing much. That idea really tuned me in to looking for small moments when doing my own comics.
At that point I thought, ‘maybe it will be two images.’ Just Picard holding the glass, then taking a sip of tea. (Having two moments like that are great for turning an image into an animated loop, perfect for making a gif. I may get to that one day with this idea.)
Then I thought a flash of lightning from the storm would be fun to play with. (I have no idea what an ion storm might look like, or whether there would be lightning as we know it, but it feels right.)
Now I’ve got three panels. I could probably end the strip there.
Panel 1: Picard in his ready room holding a cup of tea while he looks out his window where an ion storm rages on.
Panel 2: Picard takes a careful sip from the tea.
Panel 3: A bright flash of lightning surprise the captain.
Beginning. Middle. End.
However since reading Brunetti, and cartoonist Lynda Barry’s books over the last few years, I’ve really fallen in love with the 4 panel strip. I use it in my strip Steps, and have used it in all but one of these Star Trek Inktober comics.
There’s something lovely about the timing of the 4 panel strip that I’m sure Brunetti and Barry have a far more eloquent way of describing than I can.
Once I had my 4 moments, I had some research to do.
But the aspect of the strip I was most concerned about was the lighting. I needed to establish that the only light in the room was coming from the storm outside; that Picard was watching with the lights turned down. I also needed to convey how the flash of ion storm lightning would change the lighting of the room.
Now, looking at the strip, I’m a little worried that not only did I not convey that this is a flash of lightning, but I’m worried that the storm doesn’t even look like a storm. (Is it successful? Let me know in the comments.)
Ah well. Onward. I’ve got to figure out something for ‘Trap’ tomorrow.
You can easily browse all of this year’s Inktobers, here. What’s nice about that link is you don’t have me droning on and on about how each strip was made.
I decided not to reference those particular outposts since their fate was pretty dire.
Instead I focused on Asteroid Outpost 37, so named because my favorite number is 37. (And if you’re wondering, I’ve never heard of Paurian bacon either.)
I wouldn’t mind doing a few of these asteroid outpost strips. Maybe we never see inside the outpost. We just hear the dialogue from a couple of Starfleet members manning this outpost built into the asteroid.
Oh, I should also mention that yesterday I bought some stickers from deepspacenineties.com. This designer has some great Star Trek stickers. I can’t wait until the Janeways are back in stock.
This morning I woke up early and did another inked version, but ended up going with the original. Though the inking feels super clumsy on today’s strip, this version was more interesting than the second version I did.
I’m not entirely sure my execution on this strip is successful. The wasp is supposed to be going into the Klingon’s helmet in that third panel, but I’m not sure it reads clearly.
I read Dune for the first time in January. I’m re-reading it again now. Taking it much slower this time. Enjoying it more.
If you haven’t read it before, you should give it a shot. The first 60 pages or are difficult, Herbert throws everything at you and expects you to pick it up, but it is worth it. I’ve encountered few novels so full of ideas.
Speaking of ideas, here’s a photo of the original sketch from my sketchbook.
Here’s the pencils from my first attempt before spilling ink everywhere and having to do it all over again.
Today’s Art Influences
When researching Dune this weekend, I discovered the artwork of John Schoenherr. It’s his sandworm design you see here in my strip.
Schoenherr’s sense of scale is awesome, and the gaping maws of the worms is…terrifying.
The other influence on today’s strip was Bill Sienkiewicz‘s artwork for Marvel Comic’s Dune movie adaptation. I’d seen some of this a few years ago, before I’d read Dune. This piece and this one are particularly influential to today’s strip.
A third influence (and less obvious) on today’s strip is my favorite Star Trek comics cover artist, JK Moore. As a kid picking up Star Trek comics I was always excited to see one of his covers. He did the best likenesses and I loved the design of them as well. I looked at the way Moore did his transporter beam lines when I drew them in panel 2.
Sienkiewicz, Schoenherr, and Moore are masters, and I really don’t deserve to be lifting from them for my silly gag, but perhaps it’s worth it if you go check out their amazing work.
Today’s slug-like creature was really inspired by Peter David’s run on DC Comic’s 1984 Star Trek series.
David embraced The Animated Series’s ability to populate the crew with non-humanoids, since it’s not any more expensive to draw a character with three arms than it is to draw a traditional humanoid.
Here’s the idea I drew in my sketchbook last September.
My first drawings of the slug were pretty generic, so I decided to learn a little more about them to help make the drawing more convincing. (For instance, I had no idea that slugs have 4 tentacles. The two on top are optical sensors, and the two lower ones, around the mouth, are sensory. And there’s a protective layer called the mantle that covers the sexual organs, so I thought that would be the best place for the slug to wear the starfleet uniform.)
I wrote on the top of the paper to ‘Slow Down.’ I also wrote the word ‘Delicate.’ I’ve been trying to get a thinner, more delicate line, and today’s effort was the closest I’ve come to it, particularly with the background.
Data, Geordi, and Spot (Data’s cat) make their first appearance in this year’s Star Trek themed Inktober.
Though I tried to research all of the prompts for this year’s inktober in advance so I didn’t have to try and come up with an idea last minute, this was a last minute idea.
Hopefully the idea for this strip comes across without explanation (Data’s cat, Spot, hunts a mouse and brings it proudly back to Data) but sometimes I worry that my lack of panel borders and background detail makes things confusing.
If you’re deep into the details of Star Trek, (I’m usually not, but when working on this sort of project, I have to dive deep), Worf has a mek’leth and Jadzia has a bat’leth.
Here’s the sketch I jotted down in last month’s sketchbook, when researching ‘blade’ on memory alpha.
You can see where little guy turned the first drawing into a face with 4 arms.
I did some preliminary drawing in Photoshop.
I printed the preliminary drawings at actual size (5 in x 5 in squares) and then traced them in pencil on the bristol board.
I refined as I went, learning how to draw a mek’leth and a bat’leth from a variety of angles, and figuring out how to get two characters with giant heads and tiny bodies to convincingly embrace and kiss.
Here’s the pencils page before inks.
My inking continues to improve.
A confident under drawing helps, but maybe the most important aspect that has helped improve my inking is simply slowing down. Slowing down my drawing, slowing down each stroke, and slowing down my breathing.
Inking this strip last night was my most confident inking this month. I think it’s because I spent more time on drawing the characters, though I did get lazy on Uhura’s control panel.
I’m also getting more comfortable with my tools, which also helps.
I should also note that I leave the pencil lines on the bristol board
A Note on Yesterday’s Strip
I’ve gotten some excellent feedback on yesterday’s strip. A lot of people couldn’t tell what was going on without reading the description.
Which means a total failure on staging on my part.
Kirk and Spock are walking down a corridor. Kirk isn’t paying attention and walks into a bulkhead. That’s it.
To solve that problem, I need to do a better job of designing the stage and how the characters move on that stage. I need better blocking. Hopefully those of you who come back here every day will see that get better.
A quick search of memory-alpha, the online trove of Star Trek knowledge, turns up a game of go fish in the final episode of Deep Space Nine between Quark and the self-aware holosuite program, Vic Fontaine, in Vic’s club.
I haven’t seen this particular episode, or most of Deep Space Nine really, though I’ve recently been catching reruns on the H & I network.
Getting to Work
I penciled in the drawing last month, hoping to get ahead on Inktober this year.
Last night, after first stress eating some Tostito’s scoops and some cheese dip, I got to work.
I worked on my old art board from college, laying on my belly in the living room, an episode of DS9 playing on the tv.
My nib was too thick, but I couldn’t find a tinier nib, so I’ll have to run to the art store today.
My nib was too thick. I want thinner lines, so I’ll have to make a run to the art store today.
Then, every stroke of the pen was a struggle. I’d just start to pull the point of the nib across the paper, and I’d be out of ink.
It didn’t occur to me until the last panel that perhaps my inkwell was simply too low on ink.
I added more ink to the well and dipped my pen, and the inking process finally began to flow, both literally, out of the pen, but mentally as well.
I’ve added ink washes to past Inktober drawings and tried that her as well, but the results were less than spectacular, so I decided to redo the entire strip.
I pulled out my light board and re-inked the piece, tracing over my previous effort, panel by panel. The second try went much faster, looked better, and by the time I reached the final panel I felt like the results were much better. The fourth panel is much better than the first panel.
Honestly, that’s a woefully misleading title. Grabby, though, ain’t it?
In January, comics writer Kieron Gillen teamed up with Project Art Cred to write a script, release it to any artist that wanted it, and bask in the wide variation in storytelling that resulted. You can check out the results that resulted here.
Amongst all the brilliant entries, you’ll find one that does not look like the others. Mine.
I did not adapt Kieron Gillen’s full script because I didn’t realize he had written more than one page. When I downloaded it from his newsletter I didn’t realize it was a multi-page document.
I adapted Kieron’s letter to the artist.
When Gillen mentioned in the letter that he was keeping this loose and minimal, I thought to myself, “No kidding.”
Here’s my final inked artwork. There’s another pass at the pencils below, as well.
i didn’t really use any one image in particular, but it helped me refine my early sketches
for the dragon’s pose i just did an image search for sleeping dogs.
all of that reference helped me refine the drawing and make it more convincing…
i think the sketch, done digitally, has a lot more energy than the final inks.
the biggest change to my work came in the next step.
i haven’t been happy with my inking at all, this inktober, so i decided to draw bigger. i’ve been watching a lot of cartoonist kayfabe lately and somewhere in there ed piskor said ‘pencil small and ink big.’
i’ve been drawing each panel at 4 x 4 inches all inktober. last night i decided to go bigger.
i resized the panels to be 5 x 5 inch and worked on 11 x 14 inch bristol instead of 9 x 12 inch bristol
inking at the larger size made all the difference for me.
i was able to vary the line weight more than in every previous inktober. it took way longer to work, but it was worth it.