Let’s talk about yetis

Today I wanted to share a little about character design. The assignment was to design a Yeti.

Now, at first I was a little worried. A Yeti is basically like Bigfoot with white hair, right? How much variation can there be? Well, lots. I started by doing a Google image search for “Bigfoot” for initial inspiration. It led me to searching for photos of gorillas and in no time I was back in anthropology class. A few first passes I showed the client:

The version A was really inspired by the initial Bigfoot and gorilla ideas I had, and I bet it shows, haha! I also tried giving different poses and playing with shapes a little. My favorite of these was C because I was actually thinking about silkie and brahma chickens when I designed him! Those are the birds with feathers on their feet and very fluffy bodies.

So I got a response from the client along with a few suggestions. He wanted to see some variations for B’s face. So I did a semi-final inks version showing the two along with some color choices thrown down:

Again, I’m labeling the versions so they’re easier to talk about. As a side note, see how light the body color is against the white background? When coloring in the solid mass of the body, I found it easier to work with a brighter color:

That way, I could make sure I was filling in all the tiny spaces of the tips of the hair. But at one point I had to step back and laugh at how it looked!

A few more corrections and tweaks and Yeti was ready to walk the snowy wastelands:

I’m particularly proud of the way I added highlight “V”s to the shadowy parts of is leg. That’s some outside the box thinking for me right there.

Commissions are open if you are interested: juliahut6(at)gmail.com

Thanks for reading!


Harlequin Costume Design Process

More character design, this time for a harlequin! This assignment was also pretty wide open, just that the character needed to be from roughly that 19th century Italian style, and wearing a creepy mask. I came up with a variety of poses, outfits, and mask types. I was looking at a lot of Venetian masks. My this point, I’ve been working with the client for several months, and involved in many conversations. I believe I have a good feel for the type of look he wants for his project. Nonetheless, I enjoy throwing in one or two extra design options just so he can consider a wider range of styles.

Again, I’m labeling the options, so the client can easily write back and say “let’s see option A with the shoes of option C”. Which makes things very clear, and I know exactly what changes to make. I come back with some color options plus I offer to do a few headdress options, based on our email conversations.

Here I was surprised at the client’s color choice- I included the red/black/white option just as an extra off-chance thing. I expected one of the brighter options to be chosen. As I worked on the final piece, I changed my mind and decided the red/black/white fit in best because the character is supposed to be creepy. I could see this guy on a Venetian street, beckoning you to follow him down a dark alley. Augh!

This was one of the more labor intensive commissions, and I am especially proud how it came out.

Comparison- old vs. new tablet

Yesterday my trusty Graphire 4 went to join the cripples at the edge of the herd. Its Day One for this new secondhand Bamboo, and I just noticed it has no preset buttons on the tablet, just the two on the pen itself. The pen itself is slippery, no cushy padded part that helps with the grip. And the active surface is ever so slightly textured, like I’m running the nib along the finest sandpaper. Do you like drawing on sandpaper? I do not.

The plus side is I got my pressure sensitivity back! See the above Terras for comparison. The right one is the Bamboo, and the lineart looks much better (to be fair, I was trying harder too).


So I guess I’m adjusting to the new tool, though I don’t like it much. It’s a stopgap measure until I can save enough for that fancy Cintiq or a scanner to incorporate more hand drawn linework.

Btw, did you know its pronounced “wack-com”? I’ve been saying “way-comb”.

SPX 2016

Just got back from SPX 2016. What a show! 

Seeing all the talented artists has both inspired me to do better and got me feeling a little intimidated. There is a lot of quality work out there. An artist can work their butt off for a year and not make much of a splash at all. But what can you do? Keep practicing, keep moving forward.

It's firmed up my resolve to start tabling at cons again. I'm designing some pigeon stickers to sell at one of these events. Here's a taste:



Jersey City

Ms Marvel herself, Kamala Khan

Ms Marvel herself, Kamala Khan

We've been in our new apartment for about three weeks now. Our neck of the woods is part Indian on one side, part Central and South American on another, so the eating is always good. I'm especially happy that I can get my Pony Malta or Postobon at any corner grocery, a real treat that wasn't always available to me in other cities. The Colombian bakeries have pan de bono and other tasty breads that recall fond memories visiting my family.

And hey! Jersey City even has its own superhero, the adorable Ms. Marvel of the Marvel Universe. Browsing through the comics section at the bookstore, I didn't expect to flip through her book and see a panel showing a huge billboard with "JERSEY CITY" written on it. Never before has a comic related so directly to my world. It was my third day in the apartment and, I'll be honest, made me a little more enthusiastic about living here.

My August comic project is a submission for the lesbian anthology Lilies. I was really impressed by the entries for their previous volume, a collection of mini comics focusing on the theme of water. When the call went out for the upcoming volume, with a theme of stars, space, and the night sky, I knew I wanted to contribute! Stargazing is one of my favorite hobbies, so it was fun to come up with a short story that revolves around that. The girls are child versions of the heroines in my other comic, One Lucky Bride. Here's an excerpt:


All you artists out there are welcome to send in your own submissions! The deadline is Sept 25, 2016. I can't wait to see what other people come up with!

That's about all, friends. Thanks for reading!

Moving to NYC

There's no reason for this image. I just like thinking about Locke eating donuts.

There's no reason for this image. I just like thinking about Locke eating donuts.

At the end of the month, my husband and I will be moving to the NYC area! He got a job in Manhattan; I'll be looking for salaried work to supplement my freelance assignments. Since most of my career has been in the administrative field but because I want a more creative job, I'll be focusing my search on organizations that need office managers but with the potential to help out in creative projects and gain a little experience that way. Specifically, I'm looking at book publishers, but design firms and even print shops are also a good fit for me.

Some years back I read a biography of Will Eisner. It described his Depression Era childhood in the tenements of lower Manhattan, and his involvement in the Golden Era of comics. Even barely out of high school, he was working along illustrators and cartoonists, hanging out in studios and getting that hands on experience. It was all happening there in the same town. That got me thinking how a person's physical location can go a long way in determining their opportunities. 

Rochester has been a nice place to live; I met so many great friends and coworkers here and hope to keep in touch with them. I've definitely learned a lot here and am a little sad to go. But I know there's an adventure awaiting us in NYC. 

Seven Chances is now One Lucky Bride

My comic adaptation of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances is coming along nicely. I've renamed it One Lucky Bride- for one thing, while I take cues from the original, this comic is a separate creative work entirely. And second, I removed the part in the story where the hero gets just "seven chances" to propose to women. Finally, there's multiple interpretations as to who the "lucky bride" is... could it be Sara, the heiress to a vast fortune provided she gets married this very evening? Or Daysha, the girl next door for whom Sara has held a torch for years? Or one of the women responding to the mass announcement? 

So far I've only got 6 pages done, with a planned 32 page count. The story takes place in Portland, OR, where I lived for a year in 2014-15. Already I've begun incorporating city landmarks like the streetcar and a World's Fair landmark-turned-apartment building. 

The coloring is proving to be a challenge, admittedly of my own making. I want to adjust the palette for indoor vs. outdoor scenes and other atmospheric effects, something I've never successfully done before. I need to watch to keep values consistent so it won't look like, for example, a character changed their shirt before going outside. Or someone suddenly got their hair dyed between one panel and another.

See the two images on the right for an example of indoor (top image) and outdoor palette as it changes the colors on Sara's outfit. Its little things like that- stuff an audience might not notice, but keep me biting my nails.

Seven Chances Comic

Am retelling my favorite silent film as a 32 page comic. Seven Chances stars Buster Keaton, a shy young man who discovers he will inherit a large sum of money if he can get married by 7:00 pm that say. It's a hilarious gem of silent era comedy, ending in a monumental chase scene featuring a horde of stampeding brides. You can see the whole film here on YouTube.

My remake will incorporate some of the elements of the original, as well as a few twists to modernize the story and make it my own. The biggest change is the two main characters are both girls who want to get married, because hey, now we can. 

These are a few WIP sketches showing character development and the cover image. I'm about 50% done penciling and have already started inking a few pages. Follow along at the project Tumblr page at sevenchances.tumblr.com!

Overcrowding in schools illustration process

In early November Willamette Week needed a series of spots illustrating the problem of overcrowding and under enrolled schools in the PDX area. 

The concept was to portray nine local schools showing them in a range from desolate-tumbleweed to bursting-at-the-seams. I started by checking out reference images of each school and noting the most recognizable parts of their architecture. If I was going to show them in caricature, I reasoned, they should be similar enough to real life so that a local could tell which school I was talking about.

I showed WW some rough sketches and got feedback. As the enrollment numbers got higher, I wanted the severity of the bulging school to get worse and worse, ending in the most overcrowded schools literally exploding or having their top blown off! I debated which version of school was the most extreme (It's a tough call between Cleveland HS and Lincoln HS).

It actually got me a little sad, remembering the climate of schools and security these days. That's why it was important to me to depict the schools in a cartoony and light-hearted way. Also, to take it another step away from realism, I chose a limited palette which steer things into looking more iconic and less literal. I tend to over think these things, really. The final spots used in the article are here


Illustrations in Willamette Week

This season I've been lucky enough to provide some illustrations for articles in the Willamette Week, Portland's weekly arts and culture paper. I love receiving a prompt and imagining how the concept can be made into a picture. 

About a month ago I was asked to do a tree and some pinecones for an article about tree identification in the Pacific Northwest. The concept was to be kind of a wildlife journal look to the art.

I started by collecting reference images- a combination of Google Image search and visiting the library for the Sibley Book of Trees. I shot back some rough sketches for feedback.

After getting the "go-ahead" I did the pieces with watercolor on bristol board. It was the first time since moving that I worked in watercolor and it felt like greeting an old friend. The pieces were scanned and the color tweaked in Photoshop to give more of a "vintage" look as discussed. 

In doing this project, I became a bigger fan of trees than I thought possible! The Sibley book hung around my house for a few weeks and I flipped through it over breakfast and in spare moments. Finally identified some trees I've wondered about for years. Painting the Douglas Fir had me flashbacking to my visits to the Portland Audubon Society which has a nice bird sanctuary and nature trail. Another good spot is Hoyt Arboretum and of course Forest Park.

Seeing the final version in WW's website was a real treat. It was an extra bonus to work on an article with an environmental message, something that I highly value. If my drawings helped catch the eye of a reader and encouraged at least one person to go out and appreciate nature- well now! That would be a fine thing indeed.

Top tools for traditional comic making, Part II

With Inktober still going strong, many artists still have inking on the brain. Ready for more top cartooning tools? These tools are not 100% necessary but nice to have when making comics the traditional way. Short list this time.

The T-square is a ruler with arms out the sides, which you fit against the side of the page to get a perfect perpendicular line. Handy for doing panel borders and lines of text. You’ll see I freehand my panel borders, but the blue underline is t-squared in, giving me a straight guideline. In a pinch, the straight edge of another sheet of Bristol works too. But you don’t really want to measure out straight lines with other pieces of artwork, do you? The one I got was recommended to me by my instructor. Its 12” long, clear plastic, cheap, and transports easily.

Ames hand lettering guide. Nothing more than a flat piece of plastic with small holes drilled in at intervals. Used with a ruler to get evenly spaced lines for hand lettering. The drilled holes are in this circular piece fitted into the middle of the guide that can be rotated. Turning the piece allows you to control the spacing of the lines. I first heard of this tool in Scott McCloud’s Making Comics, but thought he was bullshitting until I saw it actually used by Spike in her webcomic Templar, AZ.

Correction fluid. Have you ever seen an original page of comic art? My favorites are the ones where the artist’s hand is apparent in all the mistakes they make and cover up. It’s like hearing the artist’s voice coming out of the page, “hey, its okay to screw up. Look at what I did!” The reproduction and size reduction process tends to show only the perfect finished product. As I mentioned before, I’ve been using white ink for my corrections, so that’s why I put this in the “nice to have” pile.

That’s all I got today- just the three extra tools that are not strictly necessary, but helpful to have.

For more talk on inking, illustration, and traditional comic making, follow me on Twitter and Tumblr. Like this? Share using the link below!

Top tools for traditional comic making, Julia-style

I’m kind of a cheap-ass. 

Drawing with pen and ink appeals to me over paint and other mediums because its such a low risk investment. Give me high quality paints and canvases and presently I begin shaking, terrified that the first mark will ruin it all. Drawing? Just grab another piece of paper. The stuff is compact and travels easily, too, compared to other mediums.

So that’s probably why, when my husband and I packed all our possessions into the Ford Taurus for a cross-country move, I was able to keep all my comic-making equipment. The bulky jars and boxes and bundles of supplies went to dear artist friends. I took what would fit. And this just one year after a previous purge-everything cross country move.

Economy, therefore, is at the heart of all I do. Saving space and saving money because it’s the only way I can keep my stuff. So, for cartooning, here is what I can’t live without:

  • Two nib pens, one for black ink and one for white. No matter how much you wipe down that pen, how much you scrub it, there’s always going to be cross contamination when using the same pen for two inks. It’s a crestfallen type of feeling to see your shining white turn partly-cloudy grey. Just get two pens and save the heartache. Inktober fans, take note.
  • Ink, black and white bottles. I’m still testing various brands for a favorite. So far all I know is the Black Cat stuff sold by the gallon feels a little runnier and not as black. And the Liquitex acrylic ink almost feels sticky on the page after drying. The pictured stuff is Higgins. One thing’s for sure, get the waterproof stuff because you never know when you’ll get caught in the rain. Do I know this from experience?

  • Bristol board. I’m embarrassed to admit I like the 11x17 pads with a patronizing cover that practically screams “hey kids, comics!” or otherwise a vaguely sexualized image. For Canson, it’s the “Fanboy” line. I put up with the packaging because the pages come pre-printed with blue border guidelines for live, trim, and bleed marks. And best of all, there are even hatch marks that measure where half-panels and third-panels should go. No more guessing and hoping that the tiers are all the same height. There are other ways to measure out a page and panels, but for me, this is worth it for the convenience.

  • Mechanical pencil with blue lead plus eraser. Doesn’t matter if I’m drawing a simple ball or a suplexed train. My underdrawings are layer upon layer of scribbly mess only I can decipher. Doing it in blue allows me to ink directly over the mess and Photoshop it out later. There are a few ways to do this; I follow this method using the Black and White Adjustment Tool. For you, it can be any color, the Photoshop process is the same. I like blue because it makes me feel legit! /flex
  • Drawing surface. A tilted drawing board is of course the ideal, but this article is about making do. For me, I use a wooden box on top of a side table and a pane of glass with the edges taped off. The box adds height so I’m not scrunched over the table hurting my back. The pane of glass lets me tilt the page. The art store sells portable flat drawing boards which you could prop up on your knees in bed if you wanted to.

There’s plenty other tools available for cartoonists, but this is my arsenal at the moment. 

For more talk on inking, illustration, and traditional comic making, follow me on Twitter and Tumblr. Like this? Share using the link below!