We Are Seven is a one-woman art studio currently producing books, comics, and graphic novels. This blog chronicles my progress.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Six-Month Update (that has nothing to do with Ultima) Part I

One of my goals this year is to get into the habit of updating, so that I don't have storm waves of information to funnel into a single blog. As it is, this blog will simply need to be in two parts. It also has nothing to do with the updates I've been blogging about. That will be another blog entirely.

But first, a bit of back story.

Many things have happened since whenever my last post was. One is that I accomplished most of what I intended to before my April 1 deadline. Because I have no real, external deadlines for any of this, I decided I needed one. Sometime in January, I asked a close friend to hold me to a deadline of April 1, then four months away. I said I had everything I needed to do written down, and would be honest about whether or not I accomplished it, if only she would nag me about it every now and then.
The list was (taken directly from the index card in my weekly planner):
  • Have a working website for The Disquieted Pen with fifty articles.
  • Have a completed set and puppets for the next (non-Ultima) short, short film.
  • Have 75 completed (on my end) comic panels and website (for Emmy: Self-Titled).

As always, things changed. The last item on my list was amended to read "working site and prolog." The explanation for this is in the actual blog part of this blog. However, I explained the situation to my deadline friend, and she granted her approval for the change.

I did get a working site, though with less than fifty articles. I still consider this a success, though, because I love the site and am so astonished I finished it and managed to get it to look good.

The completed sets and puppets for the other film did not happen, due to a few different factors, which are not related to this blog. The blog for that will come after the forthcoming (belated) Ultima update.

Now, onto the blog proper, explaining what the heck Emmy: Self-Titled is and why it's been taking up so much of my time.

The Six-Month Update (that has nothing to do with Ultima) Part I

Way back in my first years of community college (I was about 17, so seven years ago), I started writing a story about a girl who was an artificially created human being. I knew it was nothing original, and for the most part, it was just for fun. In the boring hours of remedial math courses at the college, though, the story began to grow and turn into something with actual characters and themes (boring college classes have given me so much free time for writing). After a while, the characters and idea began to take root in my brain, and for the next several years, off and on, I'd think about it, and scratch out ideas on index cards. It wasn't until senior year of college (a year and a half (?) ago) that I decided I really did want to do something with this story. I also decided it needed to be in comic book format, and when summer came around, I started sketching it out and tightening the plot.

I storyboarded and wrote more intensely on this story than I ever had before, and realized early on that I would need to learn how to draw if this was ever going to work. I drew and drew, my abilities improving at a very slow rate. Finally, I had figures I could live with. However, having no skill in (or really even a basic understanding of) perspective, the backgrounds all sucked. I kept going anyway.

To my great fortune, I learned that a friend of mine was a talented colorist, and after showing her my ink and graphite drawings, she agreed to color them (that's where the "75 completed panels on my part" comes from). But the backgrounds, which were so clear and stylized in my mind, really, really sucked. In frustration one day, I said "I might as well make minatures of everything and just draw exactly what I see!"

And that is what gave me the idea to do the entire webcomic in three dimensions.

Why not? I love making scale sets and puppets/dolls. It would look cool. More importantly, it wouldn't suck.

I apologized humbly and sincerely to my colorist friend, who didn't seem bothered, and told her of my change in plans. She encouraged me to go forward in my new direction.

I decided I would make the body out of my usual wire armatures and use polymer clay for the head and hands (and any other visible skin).

Simple. :D

My first head, which I really liked, consisted of a face on one half and the back of the head on the other. This way, I could switch out expressions without having to resculpt the hair for each one. I thought it was clever, but it didn't work. First of all, I didn't back the clay fully and it cracked. Secondly, even if it had worked, the clay was too heavy for the wire armature to support.

I hollowed the head out. Still too heavy.

At this point, I went to my first puppet armatures, which were heavier (this involved cutting apart my first puppets, but such is the nature of re-creation).

Behold, the carnage.

The heads were still too heavy.

Head after head, body after body, I could not seem to find a combination that worked.

In April, I moved from North Carolina back to Florida (where I grew up and lived before college). While there, I continued working on the project. My friend (and former mime teacher, with whom I was staying), suggested I try styrofoam for the head instead of clay, assuring me it would be easy enough to sculpt. I tried it. It worked.

I didn't like the way it looked.

In June, I moved back home. My grandmother suggested I use a thicker wire. Since the dolls didn't need to move gracefully (as they do for stop-motion), it wouldn't matter if I needed to use serious force to repose them. I followed her advice.

It worked. :D

For the conclusion, read Part II.

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