Setup (part 3)

I am one of those people that has no idea how to really work with computers or electronic setups of any kind. I’m the person that when I am forced to unplug the tv or xbox for any reason, I use handfuls of carefully labeled masking tape to help me replug in everything correctly.

Websites are a bit of the same thing for me.

I’m not at all a computer person, so setting up a mySQL server sounds like the most intimidating thing I can imagine, and, well, it still is. Honestly, I’m not even sure if “setting up” is the right turn of phrase. All I know is that I click boxes, tinker with things, and before you know it–but far after you expect it, but right around when you’re ready to give up–you have a functioning (more or less) wordpress site.

If I can do this, I can at least walk you through a little bit it, and if nothing else, I can point you in some directions to where you can find better answers!

I feel as if I should point out: I’m not dumb, I just have a different skillsets, and because of this I have a variety of coping mechanisms.

For example: I take copious amounts of notes. These instructions are from a few years ago, when I was setting up another subdomain* site for a now defunct comic I was working on called “smallworld”** The notes still work though, because I used them to set up another website just this morning.

Step 1 (the stuff we do before actually touching wordpress)

Do you want to have wordpress host it, or do you want to host it under your own site name? If you want them host it, go here (https://en.wordpress.com/signup/) and follow the instructions. The rest of this blog post is unimportant to you and you are now ready for the fun “picking out a theme” game!

If you want it to look snazzy like mine, and you want to own it free and clear, and you want to do whatever you want with it, well then you’ll need to download wordpress (http://wordpress.org/download/) and keep reading!

Wait, what’s the difference?

One of the problems I’ve found when friends host with wordpress for free, (or even when you pay wordpress to host your site) is that you are limited as to what themes you can use. Now, this may or may not be true, but it certainly seemed that way when I tried to help friends who took that route. You’re also limited to how much CSS** you can affect in the guts of the site when hosting through wordpress.

The upside is that it’s cheaper.

However, as a comic artist I need to be able to go in and tweak my site and play with the art and the CSS to make the site look as visually good as I possibly can. If you’re just doing a regular blog or site, you may not have to do that. No matter what hosting you go with though, I’d strongly recommend you buy your domain name.****

Domains & Hosting

I use aplus.net to buy my domain name, and I host it at ixwebhosing.com. These aren’t affiliate links or anything, I just like their prices and their services. Check around though, you might find something cheaper that you like!

Also, talk to your friends that have their own websites: they’ll tell you who they like to use, and maybe they’ll even be willing to help you set them up! Having a friend or two go over this with you is invaluable!

Because I use two different companies (one for hosting, one for the domain) I have to do a thing where I set up the name servers. This SOUNDS complicated, but was really easy.

I logged into ixwebhosting and created a new “domain” listing using my brand new site name. They gave me the two “domain name server” names that I would need for the next step. I copied those down and logged into aplus and selected my new website. Under “managed domain” I then changed the domain name servers in the required boxes, and then sat back to wait for the next 48 hours for the changes to take effect.

It was really easy! The only dumb thing I did was copy the ENTIRE address for the new domain name server (including the numbers and dots and stuff) but I didn’t need any of those, just the part that said: “nsXX.ixwebhosting.com” and I was all set.

This is a really long post, so I’ll continue how I actually installed wordpress tomorrow!

Notes:

* Ah, remember subdomains before there was multi-sites? What. A. Nightmare.

** Too funny! Small World, Giant Monster was the precursor to Era of Great Wonders, but all I had was that I wanted to draw giant monsters. After showing John the scraps of art I’d done and begging (and pleading) with him to write it, he started Era!

*** CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets.” If you’ve ever done any html before but aren’t sure about CSS, don’t worry: it’s super easy to learn! I’ll talk more later, but for now, check out stackoverflow and w3schools.

****Your domain name is your website name; mine is “typodmary.com” Now, it’s a little confusing because something like typodmary.wordpress.com LOOKS like a domain that I own, but it’s not: wordpress owns it, they’re just “allowing” me to use a subdomain. If they decide to delete it, I have no say in the matter.

Setup (part2: software)

posted in: Art Making, odds and ends | 2

I typically draw most of my comics digitally. The practicality of being able to copy layers and save files before trying various techniques makes up for almost all the intimacy and pleasure of drawing traditionally. While I still try my best to sketch in my sketchbook every day (and it’s been two months since I’ve last opened the dang thing) I do almost all of my work on the computer.

Manga Studio

I started drawing out my webcomics in Photoshop, but switched up to using Manga Studio 4EX last year. Manga Studio is a complex enough program that I doubt I understand more than 10% of what it’s capable of. I have a bunch of files and templates I made, but in order to make them, I watched a good couple hours’ worth of youtube tutorials.

Any time I start a new project in Manga Studio I revisit these tutorials, and try to relearn just what the heck it is that I’m doing.

On a daily basis, I find myself adding pages to already created files and templates, penciling, and inking books. At some point I set up a bunch of text presets, and I use those to fill in the words for the comics. I am in constant fear I’ll use the wrong text preset for the wrong comic, and that it’ll… I don’t know… reveal to all and sundry that I have no idea what it is that I’m doing.

After I export my “final” image or page, I open it in photoshop.

Photoshop CS2

It’s an oldie but a goodie. These days, unless I’m coloring a cover, I only use photoshop to resize the page file to 760px wide (by whatever it is tall) and save “for web” as a jpg.

If I am coloring a cover then I use a bunch of brushes and layers and stuff, but that’s another post for another time.

WordPress

This is going to also be a longer post of it’s own! I use a wordpress site, with a comicpress theme on it to help make my comics easier to read. It’s a bit difficult for non computer people to set up, but it’s the best (and easiest) set up out there. At least, that I know of.

Setup (part 1)

posted in: Art Making, odds and ends | 4

I need to stop writing posts in the evening, where everything I say is along the lines of, “I’m so tired, blah blah blah, whine whine whine.”

So, I’m gonna write this now, instead.

I’d been talking to a couple of people the past few weeks about my set up, so I thought I would do my best to share it with you all. This time, with photos!

Set up
Super High-tech!

A. Last year, as a graduation/okay-get-back-to-work present (or business expense?) I upgraded from my old Intuos 3 drawing tablet to this monster. It’s a Cintiq 22″HD, and if it told me to murder couples in parked cars I… I probably wouldn’t, but I would hesitate long enough to have a strong sense of shame about it.

The Intuos 3 was just a touch pad and didn’t have it’s own built in screen, so I was drawing on one surface while staring at another surface. After you get used to it it’s not so bad, except for when your pad gets turned just slightly enough to make every horizontal line a diagonal. The new Cintiq I have doesn’t have that problem: what you see on the screen is what you get. The Cintiq’s stand can be angled so that it’s upright (the way I use it) or it can be flattened, as if you were drawing on a sheet of paper (the way my friend Ben Girven uses it.)

B. Drawing pen. This came in the box with the Cintiq. It was so bright and shiny and brand new looking that I tried to get away with using my old, beat up Intuos pen, but I couldn’t figure out how to sync it up. In the end, laziness won the day and I put away my Intuos pen and started using this one.

Ben showed me that there’s a bunch of different pen nibs that you can use, but I can’t tell any difference between them. He showed me how to change the nibs and told me, “Just play around with them!” But honestly… it’s a luxury that is lost on me. A digital pen is a digital pen.. I just can’t feel any difference when using them.

C.  Cleaning cloth. I use this ALL the time. I am a filthy artist, and this cloth is a life saver. Or a screen saver. One of those. Maybe both.

D. You can sort of see the forehead of a dog. My desk is not just a desk, but also doubles as an animal den. If I’m lucky it’s the elderly dog; if I’m unlucky it’s the cat without a sense of humor. (I have a lot of scars on my feet because of that cat.)

E. Hand-me-down Laptop – this beast is the prettiest lap top I’ve ever seen. It’s also massive and burns with the heat of an angry sun. However, its harddrive is teeny, and is filled up with art software. Ben has offered to help me build a better desktop, something that’s maybe a little less pretty and more set up for my workloads.

F. Unfinished paintings, scraps of art, notes from my community college days (specifically “how to create a body of work) as well patches and other odds and ends.

Tomorrow I’ll chat about what software I’m using, and a little more of my process!

Borderlands 2 Sketches

posted in: Art Making, video games | 0

I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from ACE yet, but I’m slowly getting back into gear (I mean, it’s only been a week and a half!) and I wanted to share some sketches I’ve been working on.

Most of the time I spend all of my time working on comic layouts, penciling, inking, and things like that. I’m usually going for speed, rather than elegance or accuracy, so it’s… it’s more of a “workload” sort of mentality. Drawing up posters feels like an indecent luxury that I can not, and should not take time to do, but I had such a fun time talking to people at the convention about Borderlands, and I found myself really inspired to work on more pinup styles of art.

I also had a couple of people tell me how to take out Pete the Invincible and Terramorphous the Invincible, so I’ve been looking forward to that as well.  I swear, I sometimes suspect I’m the only person that has not been able to kill any of the raid bosses.*

Either way, I’ve been thinking a LOT about Borderlands, but haven’t been able to do much of anything between working on AtGT and Era, and finishing up my Innsmoon stuff.**

rakkmansketch
Rakkman

Above is the sketch for Rakkman that I started a while ago. I thought it was kind of stupid and not as dynamic as I wanted it to be, but you know what? I’m just being dumb – After I color this, and drop some more rakk in the background (and put more details in the rakk) it’ll be fine. Also: I want to do a neat logo at the bottom, but I’m not sure if it’ll overwhelm the rest of the poster. We’ll see, I guess.

Smile, you son of a...
Smile, you son of a…

I’m not so sure about Salvator’s face (above) because he’s smiling, but then again, when I play him he always seem so happy to be out and killing. A bit like a more lucid Krieg. I’m fairly certain I’m going to screw up his right hand (I’m going to have him holding an version of Unkempt Harold, I think) and have been putting off penciling it. But this dang drawing won’t be done  until I do, so I can only put it off for so long. Also, his eyebrows are a bit funky, but… I don’t know. Maybe they’re fine. Gah. Indecision and self doubt: I wouldn’t know how to function without them.

 

* Mind you, it would probably help if I took some time off work to play more video games, but then again, that’s what the weekends are for. Well, that and errands.

** At some point I’ll have to update y’all on the Innsmoon Stuff. It’s 80k words and still going. It’s exhausting. I also wrote a short story (13k words) in the same world, and that -at least- came together fairly quick.

Era branding

I’m still not done with it, and it’s kind of hard to read, but I’ve been working on the Era website.  I split the cover of the second book and added a top background image and a bottom background image. I’m going to mess around with it and later draw two monsters facing off over a city scape, but for now, this is where I’m at with placeholders.

Also! I got back from the printer, and we have TONS of comics ready for A.C.E. and other comic conventions!

Including TWO issues of Era of Great Wonders for people that like reading print!

(I really wanted to take a photo, but I keep shaking too much and need to have better light and a camera stand to do that. Until tomorrow when I edit this post, just use your imagination and think up a REALLY awesome couple of books. Then it’ll be just like being here!)

[edited 6/27 to add photo:]
Fresh Off the Press!
Fresh Off the Press!

I’m both crazy nervous for this weekend, and excited. I’m going to try to go to bed now, but if tonight is going to be anything like the past week, it just means I’m going to stare at the ceiling fan for the next four hours while trying to use the power of my mind to force myself asleep.

(Spoilers: it never works.)

New Header

posted in: Web Development Struggles | 2

Welp, that didn’t go as planned.

Ideally, I wanted the art to extend beyond the sides of the browser, but I can’t seem to get a small enough that is also large enough (horizontally) to do that. I also need to move the menu down, and center it a bit more, but I’m not seeing where that code is (and I know I *just* had it, right here…)

I’m going to have to keep working on this, I think.

Also, I can NOT figure out the header in the other wordpress theme. That’s another problem: if I switch themes, it’s going to take me several weeks (at the minimum) to get it looking the way I want it to. How important is this stuff, anyways? Shouldn’t I be creating content?

Gah. More work. Slowly, but surely, it’ll get better.

Moar Monsters (part 3)

posted in: Art Making | 0

I’m a little worried this will never be finished, and when i finally do flip my keyboard over and walk away from it in disgust, it won’t look like I want it to either. An important lesson: nothing is as ever good, as it is in your head.

Finished Inks
Finished Inks

I finished the inks yesterday and then spent a long while working on the flat colors. Because I find flat colors a bit boring, I’ll just show you the “finished colors.” Although, these aren’t really finished. They’re sort of just… where I’m at until I quit. I want them to be darker and more vibrant.

Sometimes (often times) I wish I understood photoshop manipulations better. Ah well, we can only work with what we have.

Finished Colors?
Finished Colors?

Next week, perhaps, I will get in there and just… gah. Increase contrast or something. Something.

Something something something.

Save Me From Myself

posted in: Conventions, Stuff I Like, writing | 0

At some point on Monday I figured out how to sync my kindle up so that I can borrow ebooks from my local library. I came at it in a round about way, and long story short, I discovered insomnia can NOT be cured by binge reading Regency romances.

I also learned some new words, because I am not normally a regency reader, and I had no idea that panniers existed, much less were collapsible. I sort of figured women just sort of wore… hoops-or something!-back then.

I’ve spent most of my life just dismissing the whole concept of regency dress as confusing and overtly complicated, without ever thinking much else about it. I also, apparently, didn’t realize that Regency romances take place a full century before the steampunk Victorian period.

I am thankful, however, that only a few ebooks of the series I was binge reading are available, because I’ve read an embarrassing amount of them in the past 48 hours, and I need to do something with my life other than try to figure out if a duke is “higher up” than a “marquis” and what happens if an exduchess marries a marquis. Does she become a marquis, or does she stay a duchess?

How do proper nouns work? Why does everyone go by their title, and not their first name?

Who knows?

A few other people in the greater Albuquerque area are also puzzling through this series however, so I’m on hold until I can answer these absolutely nonvital yet absolutely engrossing questions by reading any further. At least until they return their ebook copies.

I’m hoping they’re slow readers, because the amount of work that has piled up due to insomnia-fogged brain and distracted regency thoughts is a bit daunting.

(See? “Daunting.” My vocabulary is changing the more I read! Exquisite! …although if I were true to the Regency feel, I’d say it in French and in a confusing manner.)

I did accomplish two things of note since last I blogged, however: I finished my Dashiell Hammett/Lovecraft/Spelljammer short story mashup. It’s pretty terse, and I’m not sure that anyone who likes (or tolerates) my normal prose writing is going to like it, but I’m still pretty proud of it anyways.

I also managed to head off to the printers today and pick up a mass of poster printings. They still need to print the books (and to say I’m getting nervous on the turn-around time is an understatement.) At the end of the month we’ll be at the ACE convention, and I’m a more than a bit terrified I won’t have much to show for myself since last year’s convention. Except, well, some posters.

And everyone likes posters, right? *She says with a desperate grin*

*whispers* I’m so tired.

Moar Monsters (part2 of ?)

posted in: Art Making | 0

I’m STILL working on this crazy banner.

There’s a certain point where I start to feel as if I’m just doing busy work, treading water, and that none of this matters. The urge to work on comics is overwhelming, but the thought of leaving this image only half finished is something I can’t even contemplate.

Yesterday morning’s version:

typobannerwip3

This morning’s start:

typobannerwip4

While it doesn’t look like much has been done, there’s a ton there. Well, at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Today my goal is to finish the inking on this, but I’m not sure I’ll make it. I have a ton of chores and things I have to do to get ready for the craziness that is this weekend (and I can’t believe it’s Friday already!)

 

 

Red Harvest Hater (a mild rant)

posted in: Stuff I Like | 0

I’ve been reading a bunch of Dashiell Hammett’s stuff since I found an old trade paperback of “The Continental Op” on one of John’s bookshelves a few months ago. I tore through it, and sort of fell in love with the whole concept: the gritty and explosive violence, the hero who was just as threatening as the villains, the way some mysteries remained mysteries after everyone (but the op) died.

John was a bit surprised at how much I fell in love with Hammett’s work, and I kept bugging him for more. While I know a lot of people are more in love with Raymond Chandler, and the way he writes such striking descriptions, (“…he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”*) there was something about the stripped down staccato firing of Hammett’s prose that really resonates with something in me.

I’ve been painfully aware when I write just how verbose and unnecessary most of my words are. A lot of that comes from fear, I think. As if I’m terrified that I can’t explain or convey what it is that is important, so I throw all the words I can think of at the reader, hoping something will stick.

With Hammett, it doesn’t matter. He’s not trying to trick you in to guessing whodunit – he’s just laying out a series of facts, and if you come to the same conclusion as the hero, great. If not, that’s okay: the villain gets away as often as not in the books. Sometimes you don’t have all the facts, and there’s nothing the reader or the character can do about it.

There’s also something great about Hammett’s work where he switches the old rules around, and he spends most of the story telling you, not showing you. But the voice of the narrator is so strong, that it ends up showing you the Continental Op’s character. Terse, and matter of fact.

It’s one of the things I love about Hammett, and it’s one of the things that someone who read my beat up copy of Red Harvest, apparently hated. There are notes scrawled all through the margins, underlining words, turns of phrase, and commenting how poor the writing is. That it’s “garbage” or that it’s “loose.” I can’t turn a page and not see this person’s opinion, scrawled across the book.

In pen.

It’s driving me a little nuts to be honest, because who does this? And it’s not just the first few pages of the book. This goes on THROUGH THE WHOLE BOOK.

And it’s not the meet-cute sort of thing like you find in Abram’s “S” book that I desperately want to read. This is an attack on an author I really enjoy, and a book that I would like to enjoy, but I can’t because of my seething hatred for this bygone person, who’s own hatred is echoed on the pages of my book.

It’s not the relaxing, drift-off-to-sleep reading experience I’ve been looking forward to.

Honestly, and in pen. Who does that?!

 

* From Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. The whole book is filled with crazy similes and metaphors.

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