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It's...been a while. To be honest, part of the reason I never posted any new blog entries here was because I was still trying to bask in the happy afterglow of that last entry. It's a bit silly, of course; it was almost a year ago, but my feelings are still similar.

Since becoming a Katawa Shoujo fanboy last year, I've rediscovered my love of anime and manga.

I've been reading Bakuman (currently in Vol. 11), which I really, really enjoy. It's a good book in that it inspires me to try harder with my artwork, and reminds me of how great it was to be around other artists when I was in art school, feeding on each others' creative energy and encouraging each other.

At some point I'll get back to reading Yotsuba &!, but I've held off on that just because the digital copies cost almost as much as the physical copies. I can buy Bakuman on my Nook for around $5 per volume. I'd also like to pick up where I left off in Genshiken, which is basically "The Big Bang Theory" in Japan... It's kind of funny to me that while I like writing fantasy and historical comics, the stuff I read most these days is modern day slice-of-life stuff.

Anyway, my wife has had to "encourage" me to restrict my comics buying habits for the first time I can remember, limiting myself to $20 a month. I don't remember ever reading as many comics regularly as I do now. And it's not all Japanese stuff. I'm reading Dark Horse's Conan the Barbarian, just finished Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, and might start regularly reading DC's Jonah Hex after picking up last month's issue. I'm also always on the lookout for something good to give to my nephew and nieces.

Today I finished watching "Samurai Champloo" on Netflix. I'm going to miss it now that it's over. Great series; a lot of fun visually and stylistically, and the bittersweet ending didn't fail to deliver on the show's opening premise. It made me want to run a feudal Japanese RPG every time I watched it. I gave "Fullmetal Alchemist" a try, since my friend and Netflix both seem to think that I'll like it a lot, but I kind of hit a wall with the generic-seeming fantasy setting that was presented immediately after the promising opening scene. Doubtless I'll try again at some point.

Finally, there's the games which I inevitably allow to suck up my time. A co-worker lent me Final Fantasy XII, which he thought I might enjoy since I don't really like the Final Fantasy games (primarily due to the gameplay mechanics), and he was right, though I've been slow to progress through that. Another friend has lent me Persona 3 and 4 after hearing me go on about VNs and dating sims, I think, and P3 has been interesting so far (with a similar premise or two to the tabletop RPG we've been playing lately, Don't Rest Your Head). My wife and I have been playing Fable 2 a lot (she's already finished the game and is now in the post-story freeform adventuring mode), and of course Silent Hill: Downpour is awaiting my return, once I want to take a break from Skyrim, Oblivion and Halo: Reach (though I finished that last one ages ago, some nights after work a guy just needs to shoot some aliens).

Oh, yeah, of course there's also tabletop gaming, which I've been doing with my semi-regular, face-to-face group, and online in Google+ Hangouts. Don't Rest Your Head, The One Ring, Alternity (Star*Drive), and the occasional D&D game eat up time. Since that's also social time, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing; the main problem is that I get hyper-focused on that stuff and end up spending hours writing up game stuff that I may or may not ever use. One of my New Year's resolutions was to cut down on the amount of time I spend prepping for games, and this is the main reason why. It's too easy to sink all of my creative energies and time in roleplaying stuff when I should be working on improving my artistic skills and creating comics stuff.

Amidst all of this entertainment, it's not really surprising to me that I haven't been drawing as often as I should. I take in a lot of inspiration, but I haven't given myself enough time to focus and grow as an artist from it. I'm always a little jealous and deflated when I look at the artwork of others and see how much better they are than I am in a lot of areas. I wonder how much of their time they devote to their artwork, and what they sacrifice in order to do that (or maybe they don't sacrifice, they just have fewer time-consuming hobbies than I do and feel more of a passion to work on artwork?).

As far as personal comics projects, the stuff I was working on before is still on hold because I really want to complete the Katawa Shoujo doujinshi I started. Manga Studio got an upgrade to 5, which I purchased, so in some ways I've gone back to square one in learning how it works, but some of the differences between that and the older version seem to be improvements. Still, that project has been frustrating me in that learning to use the program while I work on the comic makes it feel glacially slow (though the fact that I don't spend much time working on artwork each week is certainly contributing to that feeling). My focus needs some serious discipline, but I get distracted so very easily...

My wife has challenged me to work on my anatomy, since I often complain that I need to do so. Specifically, she wants me to draw some hands. So I'm going to start there. We'll see where I go from there.
  • Listening to: Torchlight II OST on loop
  • Reading: Bakuman
  • Watching: Geek & Sundry on YouTube
  • Playing: Any decent VN I can get my hands on
  • Eating: Still too much
  • Drinking: Dr. Pepper in little cans
I went to Anime Expo for the first time. Some of the folks from Four Leaf Studios had tables there, and so I decided that was sufficient reason to attend. I got to meet :iconraemz-desu:, which was great, and she made me a beautiful commissioned drawing of Emi and Hanako. Unfortunately, Suriko wasn't feeling well on Saturday, so I didn't get to meet him. Still, I had great fun and spent way too much money on an import photo-pose book of martial artists fighting. In order to get my money's worth out of it, I suggested to my wife that I would start making all of the characters in my drawings fighting, no matter what the context or theme.

Also, I'm starting to play with SAI, a Photoshop-like drawing program that apparently a whole lot of really skilled artists use. Thus far I quite like it; I'm hoping I will soon unlock their secrets of giving my work a really professional polish...
  • Listening to: Katawa Shoujo Enigmatic Box of Sound
  • Reading: A Clash of Kings; Odd Thomas
  • Watching: Geek & Sundry on YouTube
  • Playing: Skyrim; Shira Oka: Second Chances
  • Eating: A little more than I should
  • Drinking: Water
I feel like I've spent the last few years kind of stuck in place. Right now my wife is attending university, hammering her way through a physics major, which is good. The down-side has been that we're living with my parents because we can't afford to rent a place of our own just now, and while I appreciate them letting us stay in the suite they built for my grandmother when she was alive, it's impossible not to feel the loss of independence. Between bills (including, most notably, my school loan payments) and the difficulty in finding work in California, there's just no way we can afford an apartment. I've got a part-time job at a major bookstore chain, which was a welcome development, though of course I'd prefer full-time employment at something greater than minimum wage. Still, I'm trying to count my blessings rather than curse the darkness, or some other appropriate mixed metaphor.

Recently, though, I've found some inspiration to take advantage of my current situation to start improving things about myself. There were a number of influences that brought me to this place, but the one I'll mention here was, oddly enough, playing a Visual Novel called Katawa Shoujo (katawa-shoujo.com). The story of how this game came to be in the first place is really fascinating, considering it came from rather humble and somewhat scandalous origins and grew to become a really beautiful collection of love stories.

Anyway, it had an effect on me, and from what I've read online, I'm not unique in that regard. I've changed my eating habits to be healthier, I've started running in the mornings (I'm doing a Couch to 5K program right now), and I've started trying to make changes in my daily life to improve upon other problems I've been struggling with (or, more precisely, putting up with) for a very long time.

As for what this has to do with my artwork, well, I'm hoping to apply my renewed outlook to that, as well. At the moment I've been preoccupied with a desire to make Katawa Shoujo fan-art, but I'd like to get focused on my comics project again. I've taken on some paying freelance work, which, while the subject matter was outside what I normally prefer to do, made me feel pretty good when I completed it. I've felt discouraged for some time about the difficulties I've run into in getting an art-based career, much less getting into comics professionally, but I feel like I'm at a point where I'm prepared to start making an effort again. It's a bit of a slow recovery, because I'm taking small steps right now and feel as though making some kind of big declaration or resolution would be setting myself up to disappoint people, if that makes any sense.

Why am I posting this all here? I don't know - mostly because I'm tired of looking at a two year-old journal posting every time I bring up the website.
  • Listening to: Katawa Shoujo Enigmatic Box of Sound
  • Reading: "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin
  • Watching: Geek & Sundry on YouTube
  • Playing: Katawa Shoujo
  • Eating: ~200-500 calories per meal
  • Drinking: Water
Nothing much to report, except that I'm fitfully working on a comics project of my own.  Whether it becomes a webcomic or a graphic novel - or both - I haven't yet decided.  But I decided that the important thing is that I'm working on something, and that I'm working toward something.

I'm leaning toward trying to create it as a webcomic, because I've been reading the excellent book "How To Make Webcomics" and listening to the podcast "Webcomics Weekly", and I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the future of comics - both as a medium that reaches people and as one that stands a chance of generating any income for their creators - is digital.  To be honest, I despair over whether I will ever be one of those fortunate (and hard-working) few who actually make a living from their comics, but what else am I going to do?  I really have nothing to lose at this point.

And it's not as though I'm going to stop writing and drawing.  It long ago became a compulsion for me.  While I would be sad if I never sold a book of my work, I would be more deeply saddened if I never created that book in the first place.
  • Listening to: My Silent Hill mix on iTunes
  • Reading: "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher
  • Watching: My days playing out one after the next
  • Playing: "Silent Hill: Shattered Memories" on the
  • Eating: Melon
  • Drinking: Water
Ugh - it's been a while since I updated this.  I apologize to those people who have tried to contact me through this site.  I've been through another move, and am presently between homes until I can get some lasting employment.

On the plus side, I've had more reason to familiarize myself with my Wacom tablet.  My art desk is in storage, and getting out the Bristol board and eraser is a bit messier a proposition right now.  It's much easier for me to sit here in this comfy chair with my laptop on a TV-tray and my Wacom tablet in my lap.

I've been working on making a habit of drawing every day, even if it's just a bit of doodling.  I want to become more proficient with my tablet, and I would like to pick up a few more tricks in Photoshop.

So expect to see a bit more work funneling through here, but at the same time, be warned: not everything I post here will be something I've given my all to.  The point is to keep drawing as a lasting daily habit.
  • Listening to: My Fantasy mix on iTunes
  • Reading: The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Watching: My computer screen
  • Playing: WoW (Dwarf Warrior 49)
  • Eating: Bratwurst and tortilla chips
  • Drinking: Diet Coke
I think I've decided to give the San Diego Comic-Con a pass this year.  I know it's the 40th Anniversary, and it's the place to meet other artists and make contacts, etc., etc., but I did the convention last year and came out of it with nothing aside from a single constructive portfolio review with Dark Horse.  It was the most crowded place I've ever been to, and cost us a significant chunk of change.  If I were able to attend as a geek and nothing more, I could have had a grand old time, I'm certain (my wife got to attend several great panels, such as ones featuring most of the casts of "Battlestar Galactica" and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"), but going as a professional looking for work was, I think, a waste of time.  There's nothing I can do there that I can't do from my computer at home aside from shake hands and submit my portfolio to DC.  It's just not worth the investment; certainly not now.

Besides, my parents are offering to pay for us to go on vacation with them in the Grand Canyon that same weekend.  Which would I regret missing more, an overcrowded sensory overload or time with my family in a beautiful natural locale?

Instead, my beloved and I are considering trying out the Alternative Press Expo.  I've never been, though I've always been curious about it.  I've had a friend or two whom I respect go to show his stuff there, so it's always been on my to-do list.  Since my wife and I spent our honeymoon in San Francisco, this would also be a nice opportunity for us to try a do-over (I got sick during our first visit).

Speaking of getting sick, my wife and I just recovered from having El Influenza.  That knocked me out for a week, which was more of a problem for her than for me, since I'm currently unemployed.  Still, I don't recommend it.
  • Listening to: My Steampunk mix on iTunes
  • Reading: Etherscope RPG
  • Watching: Lost, Dollhouse, The Clone Wars (on StarWars.com)
  • Playing: WoW (Dwarf Warrior 32, Orc Rogue 40)
  • Eating: Burritos!
  • Drinking: Dr. Pepper, from a really big can
Nothing new to report.  I'm looking for a job - student loans know no mercy.

I've been putting together some pieces oriented more toward character and concept design, with some emphasis on digital coloring.  I'm becoming much more comfortable with Photoshop for that purpose, but there are still a lot of tricks and shortcuts out there that I'd like to pick up.  Like anything else, though, it's practice, practice, practice.
  • Listening to: Radio Rivendell
  • Reading: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Watching: The Clone Wars (on StarWars.com)
  • Playing: Looking forward to returning to WoW
  • Eating: A lot more fruit and nuts
  • Drinking: Lipton Blueberry Pomegranite Tea
Not much to report, except that I'm still looking for paying work.  Comics, illustrations, storyboarding - I'm open.

I'm trying to do more digital work, to make myself more comfortable with both Photoshop and with working on my Wacom tablet.  I've been discovering some tricks and shortcuts that I think will come in handy for paying gigs.

San Diego Comic-Con didn't yield many results, but one positive thing I did get was a portfolio review from an editor at Dark Horse.  He gave me some good criticisms and pointed me in the right direction to improve my work.  He also encouraged me by telling me he thought I was *very* close to where I needed to be.

I would have preferred a job offer, obviously, but failing that, I probably couldn't have asked for much more.

Still, I envy my wife for being able to kick back and enjoy the convention.  And I missed FallCon this year, for the obvious reason that I'm stuck in Los Angeles.  I find myself increasingly missing Minneapolis.
  • Listening to: Radio Rivendell
  • Reading: The Marriage Builder by Dr. Larry Crabb
  • Watching: Gilmore Girls, Season 5 (laugh if you must)
  • Drinking: Lipton Blueberry Pomegranite Tea
Well, it's done - I've passed my last class at MCAD.  Now I'm just waiting for my Bachelor's Degree in Comic Art to arrive in the mail.

Actually, that's not entirely true.  I'm not just waiting - I'm actively looking for work.  Preferrably work in the comics field, but failing that, I'm also interested in storyboarding work.  Or illustration, character design, and the like.

In other words, I'd like to make a paycheck.  My grace period on paying back my massive student loans ends next month, so my wife and I both need the money to begin rolling in.

Employers: I'm hungry for work!  And I don't want to go hungry!
  • Listening to: Bee.fm
  • Reading: The Dragon's Nine Sons, by Chris Roberson
  • Watching: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4
  • Drinking: Lipton Raspberry Tea
My wife and I have made the move to Toluca Lake, California - back in my old haunts in Los Angeles.  We've been blessed with a very nice apartment, the internet and cable are finally hooked up, and we're looking forward to an end of living out of boxes.

I've just started my final class at MCAD, an Independent Study course that I'll be completing through e-mail.  Then, in June, I'll fly back out to Minneapolis to hang my senior show on campus and collect my Bachelor's Degree in Comic Art.

In the meantime, I'm available for employment.  I'm really hoping to find something in professional comics, but I'm also investigating the possibilities of storyboarding.  I don't know what's available given that the Writer's Strike is still going on, but we'll see...
  • Listening to: Nothing - we haven't unpacked the speakers.
  • Reading: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Watching: Lots of cable TV
  • Eating: Generic Froot Loops
  • Drinking: Diet Dr. Pepper
I'm finishing up my last semester at MCAD in mid-December (the 14th, I think), and as soon as possible after that, my wife and I will be moving back to California.  We should be with my family back in the mountains in time for Christmas, and we'll be looking for apartments in Los Angeles on top of that.  So we're both a little anxious!

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my latest work, which has been for an online Manga class.  I haven't drawn manga-style since 1999 or 2000, so it's been a lot of fun and a little strange coming back to it after so long.  But I'm enjoying it!  I had to come up with a setting and a story premise; I had recently made a post on my gaming blog (headofvecna.blogspot.com) about the setting I created using the old 1st Edition AD&D "Fiend Folio" as the primary monster book.  The original concept was called "Black Smoke and Red Sands," positing that what Percival Lowell saw on Mars was true, and that the Martians used sorcery like we use technology.  Magical portals opened on Earth, leading to Mars and to other planets in the Solar System (all dangerous but essentially habitable, in the Victorian planetary romance vein), and now the British Empire and others are colonizing these worlds.  Sorcery - colloquially known as "The Martian Science," is now being studied and mastered by humans.  But what happened to the ancient Martians?

I took this concept, took out the overtly D&D elements, and called it "Rust."  I'm a big fan of single-word titles...  I'll post the finished cover and manga page once I complete them for class.
  • Listening to: "Diablo II" Soundtrack
  • Watching: The acrylic painting project for tonight
  • Drinking: Diet Dr. Pepper
Well, the first installment of my new webcomic, "Scythians", is posted on Webcomics Nation, awaiting your perusal.

Here's the www.webcomicsnation.com/myster…

I've got four more installments to complete this week, so there will be some more material coming.  My hope is that I can continue the strip beyond that, but it'll depend entirely upon my workload.  This is my last semester at art school, so I know I've got a ton of work ahead of me.

But I like the concept enough that I'll try to continue the strip after I finish school.  Who knows?
  • Listening to: "Beyond Nature" by Phil Keaggy