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Strip 1117

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< Piro >

Pochiyama-san (by Yoshitoshi Abe)

"Pochiyama-san"

Tuesday - May 6, 2008

[Piro] - 12:37:44 - [link here]

You probably remember back in February when, after a few months of settling into the new reality of being a dad, I shook myself out and tackled the task of getting back to work. I wanted to find more reliable and efficient ways to produce better work, since my old methods were not what anyone would call ‘efficient.’

It’s been much easier said than done. As so often happens with ventures into the new, I found myself turning back to old ways of doing things just to get them done. What I’ve found, however, is that with some perseverance and some fortuitous equipment failures, the old ways of working can be put away for good.

One of these new ways of working that I’ve pursued vigorously in the past month is going fully digital with my drawings. You can judge my success with this by the fact that every comic since 1110 has been drawn entirely on the computer. There are a lot of benefits to this method - no clean up, the ability to work with layers of rough sketches and underlays, the ability to move things around and scale them up and down, etc. The more I work with it, the happier I am with the potential.

My first experiments with drawing digitally were actually back in Febuary last year, right after I got my Cintiq. I did a few comics using Alias Sketchbook Pro, which had a very natural feel to it (unlike Photoshop, which to me had the sensitivity of drawing with an ink bottle). The program crashed a lot, and in the end the process was actually taking longer to do than by hand.

A little over a month ago, I started poking at the idea again, which was natural given the fact that I was experimenting with digital hatching. The fact that most of the recent comics have not been hatched is because I was still trying to figure out the best way to get the look and feel I wanted. The search for this had to go on the back burner as I tried to get comfortable with the drawings themselves. The hatching methods would flow from whatever drawing method I settled into.

At first, I was using Painter IX to draw, which was giving me reasonable results. After a while, with a little practice and a lot of tweaking, I was getting more and more satisfied with the results. I was working on a fairly slow computer, which caused me much grief sometimes, but it worked, and as long as kept the load off the CPU, my old 1.25ghz G4 Power Mac was doing fine.

That was until two weeks ago, when Reki, that G4 Power Mac I’ve been working on since February 2003 started throwing up some signs that she was thinking of taking her day of flight.

I’ve been having some odd problems with some of my external hard drives not mounting properly, but I was more than a little puzzled when the main hard drive, the one I boot from, was ‘missing’. Everything ran ok, and I wasn’t keeping any data on it, but there was something spooky about not being able to access any of the files on the hard drive that the system was actually RUNNING off of. I had planned at some point to get a new drive and do a fresh upgrade to Leopard, and it looked like that time had finally come. The main drive is original to the machine and I’ve never done a fresh install (all upgrades) so i'd say she's due. Says a lot about how nice OSX is to work with. Try that with Windows :P)

As I set off to get a new drive and purchase Leopard, Sarah asked me how old the machine was, and wondered if maybe it was time to upgrade. I wonder if I looked forlorn or just sad as I shuffled off to the computer store... She took pity on me. After a trip to the local Apple store, I came home with a brand new dual 2.8 Ghz Mac Pro G5. I have called her Pochiyama (a rather quirky character in a doujinshi by Yoshitoshi Abe who runs a pharmacy and communicates by writing notes on paper rather than speaking :)

It took a while to get things set up, as you might imagine. There were all sorts of little problems, from having to find that DVI-I to DVI-D adapter that came with my Cintiq to get it to work in something other than VGA mode, the fact that I could not just plug my ATA drives into the new machine because it took SATA drives (easily solved, just got a big SATA drive and stuck it with my existing SATA drive in the machine and shuffled files around). I also upgraded to CS3, which resulted in my Canon 8000F scanner not working with my new machine... You get the idea. When you’ve been using one machine for almost five years, replacing it is a fairly major deal.

The thing I’m most happy about is the result of a small glitch in the system that was easily fixed by a reboot, but made me reconsider the use of Painter for drawing. After some frustrations with what appeared to be a non functioning Pan command, I fired up my new version of Photoshop (CS3) and started poking at the brush controls. What suprised me was that I was able to tweak texture and some other settings in ways that gave me a REALLY satisfying pencil brush. What I love about this is that I can draw in an enviroment I am very familiar with and one I LIKE to work with. :) All of the comics since 1114 have been done using these brushes and Photoshop CS3. The Hatching issue is almost solved as well. CS3 is full of much win and love.

One other thing I did was step back from my two monitor setup and go to using only the Cintiq. Part of this was because I’d need to get an adapter to run my 23” ACD on the new machine, and part because I still have it hooked up to Reki, but what I’ve found is that I LIKE not having that second screen there full of distractions and taking up desk space. Some of my friends thought I was crazy going back to a single monitor arrangement, but since so much of what I use for reference is analogue anyway... Having a more open desk is a bigger benefit.

Reki still works, and I can access the files on the main drive remotely (which is so damn odd) and at some point I’ll use one of these freed up ATA drives to rebuild her, but for now she’s resting happily.

I’ve been working on two other projects during all of this, which has also had an impact on my schedule, but as of today I think things will level off a bit. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience with me and the schedule in recent months, and for my lack of communication on just what exactly is going on. This long and eventful chapter is coming to a close and I’m looking forward to wrapping it up and moving on to an omake.

I have a few ideas I’m working on for that, we’ll see which way I go. It will depend on how off the deep end i feel at the time. (Chuckle)

< Dom >

"Gaming in the Now"

Friday - May 2, 2008

[Dom] - 18:58:37 - [link here]

Over the past 4 days, I've been asked various flavors of the question "Have you played GTA yet?" at least twice a day.  The answer was, and will continue to be, no.  But I feel like I should explain this with more than just "I don't like playing Grand Theft Auto games," since it's as much a matter of philosophy as it is a matter of not being as big a fan of the sandbox game as the other 6 million of you who've bought the game already.

Back when I was a college student and regularly had 18 hours of free time a day, yeah I spent a lot of time playing the newest and best games.  I had the time to finish games within a week and move on to the next (or, in some cases, spend 120 hours playing Blitzball because I'm a sucker for fake sports).

Now I'm "old," (yeah, yeah, I'm 26, that's old compared to my other point of reference at 17) and I only get a few hours of gaming a day at most, so my gaming schedule has become a lot more loose and languid.  I need to finish games or abandon them completely before I start a new game, and this process takes a horribly long time in some cases.

Do you know when I started playing Devil May Cry 4?  Mid-March, a month and a half after it came out.  It took me that long partially because the game came out while I was in Germany on a business trip, but also because it was part of The Pile of games I still haven't finished.  I wanted to finish Culdcept Saga and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin before devoting my time to DMC 4, and while I felt a little bad about leaving a game I adored so much on the shelf, it was no less fun when I finally pulled it out of The Pile and played it from beginning to end without other games interrupting.  I didn't lose anything by waiting those 6 weeks, and it was just as enjoyable on March 24th as it would have been on February 5th.

Do you know what I'm playing right now?  Disgaea 3. That's another game that came out two months ago, but I didn't get around to it until now.  It is most likely going to eat the next three weeks or so, and when that's done, I'll move on to another game.

After The Pile has finally dwindled down to nothing, I may find some time to pick up Grand Theft Auto 4 and spend some quality time with it to see if I like it (the last GTA I played for any significant amount of time was GTA2, before the driving controls made me seasick).

Anyway, ramblings over.  The point is, I haven't played GTA4 yet, and even if I owned the game I wouldn't have started it yet.  Please stop asking me what I think of it - I'll get there in my own time.  Maybe.  If Gears of War 2 hasn't come out by that time...

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