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I figured I'd write a bit of an update, as I've been quiet. This might be a bit disjointed, but as I've been practicing I've also been thinking about what I want to do art wise and how I should get there. I've been looking at a lot of art from different anime "eras" to learn about it and to think about what I'm doing with my art. I've been really impressed with some of the older stuff that I got into anime with, as well as with old PC-98 art. The artists did some amazing things with 16 colors at 640 x 400. What I really want to do is make pics with the sort of energy I see in those older series, as well as those PC-98 screenshots. I don't want, however, to be making "retro" work- I just want to make something with lots of energy and interest. So, that's been my challenge lately. I've been trying to work within my own style as well, to see what I can do. That's just for original art, however. When I do draw fanart, I want to make sure I keep it as close to the original look as possible. That way, I can sort of "keep my bearings" and make sure that I'm looking closely at how pro work is done.

Also, the other thing I want to do is look more closely at various tutorials, and think more about how I can incorporate what I've learned into my art.
Just a quick journal to let you know what's going on. I've been fairly busy in the real world lately, which made it hard to get art done. Not being able to make art wasn't much fun. Now that I have a bit more free time, I want to use it to practice and learn a bit more about my art and how I can improve. I figured it would be a good idea to write a brief journal as a result.

And a brief aside- I like this seasons' anime, so far. Best ED has to go to Asobi Asobase, and Cinderella Girls Theatre is back. Hanebado reminds me of Euphonium for some reason, and Gundam Build Divers is fun.
Now that the season has almost wrapped up, I figured I'd write a bit about what I've liked. I don't watch all that much each season, and I won't talk about the big shows here (as you've probably found out enough about them elsewhere). There are plenty of fine shows, but I think the one that stands out for me the most is Last Period: Journey to the Edge of Despair. The episodes and parodies have been great (especially the Kemono Friends one). The Android episode had one of the best fight scenes this season, which is impressive considering it's a lighthearted comedy based on a smartphone game.

Special mention goes to Gundam Build Divers for going beyond its simple concept and being quite fun. Again, great fight scenes (especially episode 12). Every so often I have to remind myself that it's an anime about playing a MMORPG. I liked the characters from Try a bit more, but I felt like they weren't used all that well. On the other side, Divers characters are pretty simple, but they are written nicely enough that I don't mind. Also Ayame.

Shorts-wise, I like Crossing Time. Lots of fun.


I just noticed that Deviantart wanted me to take a survey (it appeared in my notifications center). If you've been asked to take a survey for Deviantart, it'd be a good idea to do so. I have several concerns about Deviantart that I would like addressed, and this seems to be about the only way to get them across. The survey itself takes some time to complete, but I think it's worth it. The management needs to hear what we're worried about and what needs to be fixed. 

To be honest, I am unhappy about what has happened to DA. The sense of community has diminished, the userbase is ignored, and it is increasingly difficult to find art I want to see. I want things to improve, so hopefully this will help. The survey seems like a positive thing to me, as it shows a willingness to see how the users are feeling. That's why I think if you do see the option to take the survey you should do so.
I'm a bit behind the times on this one, but maybe you are as well. Kenichi Sonoda announced a new project starring Bean Bandit, Rally Vincent, and Minnie May. It has to be crowdfunded because good luck at getting it funded the usual ways, and will be a short to start- but Sonoda wants to make a 20 minute piece if possible.

The Kickstarter is here, if you'd like to learn more and were unaware as I was:


I like to look around and find out about sites with interesting images that could help artists out. There's a company in Germany that refurbishes and restores old cars- mainly Mercedes- and they've got a bunch of nice images of their work. If you're drawing mechanical stuff, this could be some good inspiration:

www.mechatronik.de/en/trade/ve…

Click on any of the cars and you'll see what I mean. If you've had trouble imagining mechanical stuff, this can help you figure out how some really intricate designs work in real life.
(this journal got a bit out of control, but oh well)

I was looking at some "Draw this again" pics the other day (that's where someone shows a pic they drew a long time ago, then draws it again), and I noticed something interesting. For a lot of the first attempts, you'd see a lot of what I'd say are "generic" anime styles that were popular at the time. The "now" images were drawn in a different, more unique style. They were technically more proficient, but in some ways lacked the earlier pictures "energy". I think that with a bit of that technical skill, the original image in the style it was originally drawn would have looked great.

There's a lot of good in a unique and interesting style. There's also a lot of good in those "generic" styles. To look at anime for a moment, those generic modern styles are used for a purpose- they are appealing, easy to draw at any angle, and expressive. There's a reason why it was created, after all.

Sometimes by trying to force our own styles, we end up moving away from those three positive elements without even knowing it. It's important to break away from the idea that drawing in a generic or standard style is always inferior to an original one. You need to think about exactly what you are trying to do with your art, and act accordingly.

So let's talk about some of the best generic styles. I'll pick out a few that really show what I mean (and that I'm familiar with): cartoons from the 40s, anime from the 80s, and modern anime. I want to talk about what makes them good. If you understand these styles, you'll do much better later on as you grow as an artist- whether you use them or make your own style.

Note that I'm focusing on the more generic styles of the period. I know there were some amazing artists who pushed boundaries and achieved incredible results. I'm looking at the styles used for large-scale production- the styles used when you had to make sure your team of animators or comic artists were being consistent.

Three Key Points to Good Design:

1. Appealing

These designs have instant appeal. That doesn't mean they have to be cute- but rather, that they immediately draw your eye and keep your interest. They don't tire you out looking at them. This is a hard point to explain, but if you look at a bunch of characters from these eras (cartoons or anime) you'll get it. Perhaps one way to say it is that the shapes flow well, and don't clash against one another.

2. Easy to draw at any angle- Solid and 3d

When you turn a figure around, it makes sense. With only seeing a couple angles, you can easily visualize pretty much any other angle- and it will look solid.

40s cartoon designs are a great example of this. You can quickly and easily draw them up at any angle. This is because their basic construction makes it simple. Everything is built on that basic structure. It's just complex enough to challenge you. 80s anime characters (and many modern ones) are similar in that they are solid and have a good 3d nature. You can see this in real life figures made of them. They work like something real works, and there are few cheats in their forms.

Look at old 40s cartoons- they are designed to move, even when there's a fair bit of detail. That's because the detail is built up over the basic form- it conforms to the form, it never fights against it. You'll always know where to place something if you build that form correctly.

A good generic style is readable no matter the angle it is drawn at, or the distance away (within reason).

3. Expressive

With a good style, you can quickly draw suitable emotions. You can convey whatever action you need to convey.  The underlying forms make it look good, because they are straightforward and easy to understand. The styles lend themselves to expression via so many different means.

It's easy to get the point across when drawing them.

Good Generic Styles

So with all that work put into making those good styles (80s/modern anime, 40s cartoons), you can take it and benefit. You can draw in those styles and learn what makes them good. You can work at building your own artistic vocabulary.

As for your own distinct style- it will grow organically. The strongest styles tend to build on previous work in an evolutionary fashion. If you can master the three key points (appeal, ease, expression) by understanding how others have done it, your own unique style will be quite strong. Of course, there are many good points to sticking with those generic/standard styles- if you can do a good job in them, if you have fun drawing with them, and if it turns out well in the end- it's a fine choice to make.


(Special note: You'll notice I specifically left out 50s cartoons and 90s anime. They meet all three points, but require an expert's touch to do so. Take 50s cartoons- many are deceptively simple. Get the underlying forms wrong and they end up looking flat. Because they are so simple, it's easier to misunderstand their form. Then there's stuff like the mid 50s Warner Brothers Cartoons, which again take a tremendous skill to get right.

With 90s anime, get the structure wrong and everything looks weird. 40s cartoons are more obvious. Both 90s anime and 50s cartoons were created in a really unique environment- their creators had worked in the 40s or 80s and were now real masters of the style. They could work wonders with those unique looks.

I'll give a somewhat overused example- Saber Marionette J. You better be at the top of your game to draw those designs consistently- while making them look good.

You'll also notice how this started to go downhill for cartoons at the end of the 50s/start of the 60s, and for anime at the end of the 90s/start of the 2000s. Put simply- the new up guys struggled with the styles and work because they didn't have those years of growth to help them understand. Anime bounced back for many reasons, but cartoons had a period of stagnation into the 70s that is way beyond the scope of this journal.

I'm sure there's plenty of room to disagree with what I wrote- but I think the central point that 50s style cartoons and 90s style anime aren't the easiest to learn from stands.)
It's good to have physical models, or figures to help with art (Life drawing is an ideal as well, but I'd like to focus on anime figures for this journal). Just being able to see something in real life, to turn it around in your hands helps a lot. The problem is that a lot of figures are expensive, especially anime-related ones. Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives. Prize figures are big enough, but tend to have simpler sculpts and paint jobs. They are still useful from an art perspective, even if they aren't quite as nice to display as the fancier figures.

Here's an example:
hlj.com/product/FRU8956

(I pick HLJ for examples because it ships worldwide. You can always check your local Amazon or other dealer). IT doesn't even need to be for a particular character you want to draw, but rather for the basic look and form. Think about getting several figures in different costumes, for example.

I've said this a few times because it's a good idea. You really want to have every possible tool you can get to help with your art. 3d models on your computer can be useful as well, but having a physical item has its own special value.

I know that many of you struggle with money. If you can, I suggest trying to set aside a bit every month to afford a few figures. It's an investment in your artistic growth. In the anime style, just looking at a figure versus what you've sketched will immediately show up areas to tidy and room for improvement.

Here's something else for the novice artist. As an artist, I've wasted plenty of time doing stupid things. I want you to avoid those mistakes so you can save time and grow more quickly. Let's start with checking reference.

Quick question: how many lugs are on a stock 1991 Honda Civic EX sedan's wheels? What do they look like?

I have no idea, but I do know how to find out. If you're struggling with drawing something, make sure you check a reference. Google Images is just a few mouse clicks away. This beats guessing. It can feel like a hassle, but it can be done quickly.
I was reading an old interview by Akira Toriyama, and I saw some pics showing the huge stash of scale model kits that he owned. If you've read Dragonball (or his other works), you'll know that he draws lots of fanciful vehicles- but also a lot of real ones, only changed and a bit SD. By using model kits, he was able to help visualize those vehicles from many different angles and depths.

As a modern artist, you've got lots of reference options online, but sometimes it can be confusing to know where to start. Also, sometimes it's hard to find angles that might be interesting in one particular photograph. Fortunately, scale models still come in handy- even if you're just looking at box-art.

For example, check out this:
hlj.com/product/TAM35045
Or perhaps this:
hlj.com/product/AOS01017

They are both interesting and unique looking vehicles. By searching on sites that sell scale models, you can find lots of interesting vehicles to either serve as inspiration for a design, or to include in your picture. When you find one that is really interesting, you may want to buy a copy or two.

The trouble is that models can get expensive. One way to save money is to see if there are any model shows near where you live. Most model shows have a model trading or sales area, and you can often pick up kits for very cheap there. Online, look for sales- unless you need perfect accuracy, an older or less detailed kit will do the job!

As for assembly, you need to decide whether an unpainted kit will help you more (to get the basic form), or a finished, painted one (to make sure you get the markings and overall look of the full-scale version). If you are a novice, don't worry too much about the build, as long as you make something recognizable!

If building isn't an option for you, there are lots of websites where people go to exhibit their works. You can get a lot of inspiration for designs from them. A good example is below:

hyperscale.com/

(another option is 3d models, but I find that these can be a bit tricky to use for reference, and also you may have trouble finding some of the more oddball items that exist as real scale models.)
I like anime figures- I think I like the ones I have to build a bit more, but all figures are pretty neat. I like the challenge of converting a 2d image into something 3d, and it's impressive to see what a talented sculptor can achieve. Then we move onto the harder part- mass producing those sculpts. That's a skill in of itself.

Right now, in Japan, Winter Wonfes- the Wonder Festival is on, and there are a whole bunch of new releases that I think are pretty neat. If you'd like to see pics, you can check out twitter, using the #wf2018w hashtag- or visit your favorite sites. I did want to mention a few figures below, but I'm sure there are many others that you would be interested in.

Max Factory has announced a Megumin Figma, and has a prototype Aqua up.

And for our cozy camping fans, I spotted Nadeshiko and Rin Nendoroids.

No pics, but Kotobukiya is expanding their Bishoujo line by adding G.I. Joe.

For those of you who like building kits, there's a Frame Music Girl Hatsune Miku. In the Volks Charagumin kit line, they'll be releasing a Kurosawa Dia, as well as Ruby (to go with the You and Chika they've already released).
Secret Society BLANKET is inspired.
I've been doing a bit of thinking about where to take my art. I want to improve my art, but I also want to get to telling more stories with my art. To that end, I figured that I could set some goals- not big goals, but maybe just little things I can do every day.

I broke it down into three basic goals:

1. Draw one comic page a week

I've done some practice drawing single panels, and I think I've learned a bit from it. Now I want to build on that with full pages. I know I've drawn full comic pages before, but there was a lot of room for improvement. I had to take it down to the basics and build up. I've also wanted to draw some short, "one-shot" comics of about 30-40 pages. That will have to wait as well.

Right now, my aim is to draw a nicely-done comic page per week. It doesn't have to be anything in particular, just that it is drawn. I've already started planning some various shorts that I can make. I'll also make some shorter Shiori comics to go with it.

2. Draw my regular work (pinups, etc).

I don't want to let go of my color works, so I'll try to get some of these done as well. I'll probably stick to simple stuff for these pics in order that I'll have time for the comic pages. That should be a nice balance between the complexity of a comic page and a simple pinup.

3. Learn about new techniques.


I'd like to learn some new techniques for coloring and painting, along with the various other things I'm doing. Sometimes I struggle with how-to videos and tutorials, however. Have you ever seen the "how to draw an owl" image? That's where on the left it starts with "draw a circle", and then on the right it's "now draw the rest of the owl". It feels like that to me a lot. I think I just need to focus a bit more.

As for other techniques, I still want to learn more about proper perspective and comic layout. That's something I have a few more resources on- but I think the real key will just be practice.



Anyways, that's pretty much my thoughts for the moment. In many ways, this journal is to help me work out my ideas as it is to let you know what's upcoming.
I haven't been able to upload anything lately, so I better write something to let you know I'm still here. I had a bunch of extra work, a few friends to help out, along with a cold. All of that cut into my time to get art done. I hope to get some more stuff done soon.

As for this journal, I had intended it to be longer and more meaningful, but I suppose this is good enough for now.
Not content with the children, teen, or adult market, I see that Nintendo is going after the cat's entertainment dollars.

Edit- how about an explanatory Youtube Link:

[link]
There were a bunch of anime series that released last year. Can you write down your three favorites (or more if you like)? Assuming you found three new ones that you liked, of course. Alternatively, or together with that, were there three other anime series that you saw last year (but weren't originally made in 2017)?

I want to get a better feel for what my viewers have been watching, and what they like anime-wise. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I know enough about my viewer's tastes in anime, and I wonder what someone who visits my gallery would like.

As for myself, for 2017's new series, I'd pick Kemono Friends, Konosuba, and Sakura Quest as the big standouts, with special mentions to Animegataris, My Hero Academia, and Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Theatre. There were a bunch of other shows I liked, but I'll stick with those for now. For older shows that I watched in 2017, I'd go with Last Exile,  Non Non Biyori, and a bunch of shorts like Aiura.
I probably should have written this earlier, but here it is. While I wasn't as productive as I had wanted to be in 2017, I did learn quite a bit, and I'm glad that I did make that progress. Of course, I still have a long way to go, but I made some key improvements that can help in the future. Thank-you for stopping by and having a look at my art. I hope you found something you enjoyed.

I'll break this journal down to make things simpler:

1. Art. I'm getting a lot closer with my "fake anime screenshot" look, which also doubles as the look a lot of cel-shaded posters in magazines use. A lot of this relates to why I learned to draw- I wanted to draw pics like I saw in those mags or those screencaps. Now I can do that- or at least, close enough for now until I learn some more and improve. That only partway applies for backgrounds, because I have a huge ways to go for them.

2. But now that I've learned that, what to do? Well, I need to learn more about manga inking and all the bits that make up a comic. I really like the work in the earlier Dragonball manga. It's lively and fun, with lots of characterful inks and easy to read action. Everything flows so well. That's something I need to learn to do. I have no idea if I can, but it's worth a shot. I'd like at the very least to produce some pages that I can feel that I've done my best with.

3. So what to do? More and more, I want to tell my own stories. I think I've said this before, but my stumbling block has been that I don't know what those stories should be, but I know I want to tell my own stories. That seems like a big thing to figure out, so I'll have to see what I can do. I haven't managed a "one shot" short comic yet, so I'll need to go even shorter, I figure.

4. A quick aside- the internet and the way we used it in 2007 had a lot in common with the way it was used in 1997. In 2017, with the mass market penetration of the smartphone, things are different. It's difficult to express just how much has changed. This affects you as an artist, writer, or even as a viewer. The desktop computer is one of the most amazing content production tools ever created. The smartphone, on the other hand, is primarily designed for content consumption- and it presents unique challenges for those people who create that content, to ensure it can be viewed properly. My big fear is that this new change has put up a bigger wall between creators and viewers.

5. The one big tool I found this year was the Makegirls.moe website: make.girls.moe/#/  . There are many different uses for an AI driven anime character generator. By generating a bunch of different characters in different styles, I can practice quickly and easily. It showed how I had gotten stuck in a rut, especially in my own designing of characters. Quickly creating new designs from scratch is not one of my strengths. Seeing an AI rapidly generate a bunch of different hairstyles on interesting characters challenged me to improve, and showed me how to.

When you see a generated character, you don't have any preconceptions about them like you would with fanart, which would limit the way you'd depict them. Generating a bunch of characters can give you lots of new ideas and challenge you to try new things- even if they aren't that different to what you normally do. If you haven't visited the site, you should, and you should take some time to see what you can generate. Try it a few times before giving up, and try changing the settings a bit if you keep getting messes.

6. Another thing I've found handy is looking up fashion, whether new or old. Again, I needed to expand my repertoire. Interesting clothing for characters is as important as interesting characters- it helps let the reader know a bit about them. I doubt I'll ever have a designer's good sense, but I can at least get a wider variety of costuming when I do draw.

7. And to finish off, a quick note on some anime series. There were lots of good series last year, and Kemono Friends was one of the standouts for me, along with Sakura Quest, Animegataris, Konosuba, and I think this list is going to go on for a while. If you have a chance, check out Kemono Friends, and put up with the CG animation. It is remarkably well constructed, and one of the most satisfying series I watched that was made in 2017. By that I mean it was well-written and plotted, with interesting characters in a unique world, never talked down to the viewer, and had a good solid ending. Most series struggle to have one or two of those elements. I suggest watching if for no other reason than to see how to make a solid, consistent series in a reasonable amount of time.
 
The makegirls.moe website has been enhanced with some interesting new options- 256x256 image generation, and the ability to set the "style" of a character (from early 2000s to present day). As before, the website can be found at make.girls.moe/#/ , and I created a few example images here:
Makegirls.moe 256 Example by wbd


Let's say you're a writer and you want to visualize a character better. Well, just input certain parameters, and generate until you see the character. But as you generate characters, you may see whole backstories popping up when a new character appears. This is useful if you need a bunch of characters- friends for a main, or background, or whatever.

It's also useful if you need a bunch of characters for an RP.

Here's another option:

What if you're requesting or commissioning an artist to draw an original character of yours, but no one has ever drawn them before. Well, generate a bunch of similar looking characters to the vision in your head, and then send them along to the artist. Make sure you describe what should be different, of course! This will make the creation process much simpler and faster for them.

I think that the 128x128 image generator libraries are a bit more useful for artists, as they generate a wider variety of designs. The main  thing that running this program has helped me with is seeing new and unique hairstyles. At the 128x128 size, you have to do a lot more guesswork and use your imagination more to understand the look of a particular style (especially twin-tails, as the AI doesn't really get them). It's helped me to break away from similar-looking hairstyles and to try new and different looks for characters. That's something I struggled with. The 256x256 is almost ready made for the other ideas I noted above.

The only other issue is that the AI doesn't really understand clothing or shoulders, but I think that's a trivial thing- you can always just edit the image afterwards to fix that.



If this sounds familiar, I've talked about the makegirls.moe character generator before:

More Uses for Makegirls.MoeI wrote a bit earlier about the Makegirls.Moe website (here:  http://make.girls.moe/#/ )  and how it could be useful for artists, but I used it a bit more and I think there are some other great uses for it- for writers, RPers, requesters, commissioners, and more.
First up, however, I uploaded a little sheet showing some of the stuff I've been making using the site, and what I did with the output.

I posted that to help you understand the potential of the site. It reminds me a bit of Vocaloid when I first found out about Hatsune Miku (Miku has been around almost 10 years now).
Let's say you're a writer and you want to visualize a character better. Well, just input certain parameters, and generate until you see the character. But as you generate characters, you may see whole backstories popping up when a new character appears. This is useful if you need a bunch of characters- friends for a main, or background, or whatever.
It's also useful if you need a
One of the most important things you can do is build enthusiasm for your work. It doesn't just help the reader once it's been made. It helps the artist you want to draw your comic. It helps you visualize the scene. But what can a writer do to generate that enthusiasm? Well, let me start with a story:

Every so often I get requests from people who are looking for an artist for a comic idea. I can't take these requests or commissions, but that's beside the point. It works a bit like this:

-someone asks if I can draw their comic

-I go to their deviantart page, and there's nothing there. Sometimes there might be a couple drawings of the characters or part of a fic.

So, what can you as a writer do that will help? You need to start thinking about the comic and how it will look. Imagine if you could show your propsective artist some roughed-out comic pages. That would really catch their attention and help them. But wait, you aren't an artist- so what can you do? You'll need a script, and you need to learn a bit about thumbnails and layout. You don't need to master art to do these steps. You're familiar with a script, but what about thumbnails and layout?

Thumbnails are basically quick little sketches of the comic pages. This helps you figure out what can and can't fit on a page, and what can look good or look boring. Combine this with the script, and an artist can quickly figure out what you're looking for. They will tweak and adjust the layout to improve it, but that first rough thumbnail will get your ideas across. You'll also quickly figure out what doesn't work in your planned script, and adjust accordingly. This will save you and your artist time.

If you have some money, or you have a library nearby, check out "How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way". It has a great section on comic layouts and thumbnails.

If you don't, then there are a few websites that might help. These are designed for an artist to go through the whole process, but you can see how the first few parts are what you need to learn:

www.lackadaisycats.com/makinga…
webcomicalliance.com/featured-…
design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/…

You don't need to learn how to draw, because the quick thumbnails will just set the scene. They can be as simple as you'd like, as long as they are understandable. The thumbnails will also let you see if the page flows properly, and also warn you when you're trying to cram too much in.

For a small amount of effort, you can lend a big hand both to a prospective artist, and also to yourself. You'll have something that will draw the eye, and make what you want so much clearer to see.

Want an example? Onepunchman was originally a fairly rough webcomic:

galaxyheavyblow.web.fc2.com/

The excitement and energy of that webcomic shone through, which led to the development of the manga and anime you may be more familiar with.

Worth a shot, I figure.
A while back, I picked up a really nice action figure for my art- the sh figuarts "body chan". It's got decent range of motion and has come in handy when I'm trying to get tricky angles and whatnot right. It's well proportioned for anime-style art as well, which is handy given my main style. I had been using a blank Figma body, but it doesn't quite work as nicely as the SH Figuarts one. They seem to work better as finished figures.

Have you been using action figures, and have you found anything useful for your style, or are you still looking for something in particular?
So, I went to the "fan art mashup challenge" page, and clicked on the mashup generator. Each time I tried I got something like this:

Character I don't know  at Place I'm not familiar with doing somethingorother.

(in fairness, every so often I got "character I sort of know but am uninterested in" at "place that I have a vague recollection of" doing somethingorother)

If I made a generator, I wonder if anyone would get the references.


Edit- I'm not saying this as a positive, or as a negative, but rather as an expression of surprise. I mean, I'm going along happily and then I notice that hey, I have no idea what these references are. Maybe if someone explains them by using analogies to Idolmaster or Love Live I'd get it. Or something like that.