On Drawing eMT
by -3-

I mentioned previously that my inks for experiMental Theatre are done digitally in a vector format. The truth is, it's all done that way - there are no pencils, no script, only direction and the moment. It's part of how i'm forcing myself to experiment here.

But a lot of folks aren't necessarily digital art tech savy to understand what i mean when i say it's vector based, and what difference does that make?

There are two basic ways that images are stored on a computer - bitmap and vector. Bitmap is a collection of dots (pixels, derived from "picture elements") laid out in neat columns and rows. Each dot has its own color value and they got together to make the picture the same way a dot-matrix printer uses tiny dots to print pictures on paper.

Vector based images, however, are stored as math. There are set points, and all the curves and angles are stored as formulae that connect the dots to build the image.

So what difference does that make? Let's take a look at a small section of the third strip in the series:

experiMental Theatre - Experiment One, strip 3 detail

(His TV Is Evil, but mine radiates fear. Think they're related?)

Okay - looks fine. But let's say later i decide i want to use this image as part of a promotional poster or something and it needs to be five times larger. If we enlarge it as a bitmap file, it looks like this:

That's going to print pretty hideous, huh? Even just doubling the size of something to re-use it later in the strip fuzzes out the edges. But vector format is stored as math, so when expanding to 5x size, it just moves the points further apart, and calculates the curves using the stored formulae, like so:

Just a wee bit better, eh? Even blown up to size to burn on the surface of the moon, it will still keep the sharp clean edges.

And that's what made the decision when i was looking at what software to use. I went through a lot of the software i keep onhand for my work - Photoshop, of course; Fractal Painter, and other natural media software were making me happiest. But when i realized i was going to be working in stark inks with no bleeds or tones, i remembered one other piece of software that started life as a natural media emulator.  It's since morphed into a form its designers scarcely originally envisioned, but for plain solid colors, when used with a pressure sensitive graphics tablet, of course - can't do natural work without something along those lines, it works beautifully. And it's completely vector based.

Would you believe - Flash? Yep, the popular web animation tool started out a very different beast, and it still has its excellent heritage at the core. For the kind of black ink work i'm doing, it's perfect. (Okay - it has some weirdness that i'd tweak, but that's just interface stuff. And i have urges to tweak everything.)

No New Strips!
by -3-

Really, i promise. I won't be updating the strip today - maybe not again until it actually starts. Hmm.... Have i bothered to mention that the official start date has been set? experiMental Theatre begins this Sunday - 21 Nov 2010.

Instead, you may notice the look & feel of the page changing. Now that i've settled things on how the strip will be run, i'm working on the html/css code for the pages to adjust things until i'm at least close to happy with it. You might note that i've already tightened up the spacing and changed how the series title is displayed. I'll continue to tweak and adjust things during this week, and prep a few basic extras, like maybe link banners for folks who may someday want them. Maybe add an "About The Artist" page - other little support things like that to get ready before i publicize the strip.

Or maybe i'll go play Neverwinter Nights for a while. Funny how old games waiting to be played tend to start screaming for attention when deadlines start to loom impendingly. (Hey! Spell check says that's a real word!)

Well, i've already got the first month's worth of strips ready to go - so how evil could a little game playing be?

New Non-Strips?
by -3-

Okay, so, some might be wondering, if the strip isn't running yet, why the frell is updating with new strips?

Yeah, fair question, i suppose. And another might be - what will happen to these panels when the strip starts running? And perhaps - is anybody reading them anyway?

First question first - it might not keep updating. I might actually spend time working on things i'm supposed to be working on. But when i sat down to the drawing table, that bastard inside had other things planned. But he also had a valid point - it'll be confusing enough for some folks that the strip won't be updating on the same days each week. Do i really want to add another level of potential confusion by not keeping it on the same dates? Or is it a total non-issue?
How should i know? As you'll get to see soon enough, what goes on in my head might not be allowed anywhere near yours. (We'll be getting into some of the '...Mental' part of the title there, eh?)
And so my evil hand drew today's frame instead of the December 6th strip like it was supposed to be doing. (And we'll be having a little talk about that later, Mr. evil hand - just you be sure.)

Will there be more before the strip starts? Well, we'll see how that little talk goes.

Second question - easy answer. I'm going to move them. When the strip starts running, i'll add a new page for the Pre-strips and move them to the new page.

Third question - the tree makes no sound, only vibration.

by -3-

Okay - you're poking around here and there's no damn comicstrip. In fact, the cop at the door isn't even a part of the strip. So how are you supposed to have a clue what's going on here, huh?

series avatarWell, the current avatar for the strip (seen at right) is from the first panel of the first strip - does that help? Probably not much. And i'm not going to show any more yet. But, i am willing to talk about it a little, if that'll keep you satisfied until i start running the strips. Today, i'll just talk about the art. Usually, i'm a very tight, controlled artist. My work, that is. Not so much the artist. (See my The Third Road blog for some samples of my more typical work)  That's the first 'experiment' going on in the strip - the art style. I working very raw and loose, stark black & white brush work. I don't see the world in lines - i see in tones, textures and movement. So this is forcing me to adapt and try something new.

I'd like to tell you what my base inspiration is here, but i really just can't remember. Decades ago i found a strange hardcover graphic novel - long before the term was coined, before Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns or God Loves, Man Kills - any of that. And i didn't find it in a comic shop - i found it in a remainder bin at some discount store. I have no idea what the title was, who did it, or what went on in most of it - just the raw impressions left scratched on the inside of my skull from many years past. But it's still there - still clawing to the surface.

And this is where i'm going to let it find its way out.